Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Joy of Research

Let me start by saying that sometimes when you start writing a new novel, you get carried away from the start. Imagination carries you off on a sea of inspiration. Then there are the times when you have "a brilliant idea," but have a hard time pushing off with it, or you get interrupted enough times during the "discovery phase," that you lose track of the brilliance.  This is where research sometimes helps.

I'm in the beginning chapters of my newest endeavor, which I'll just refer to as the Shoemaker and the Elves (since that was the point of inspiration), even though it really doesn't have anything to do with making shoes, or with elves. The story is about an author and a ghost writer. I'm becoming acquainted with my characters, and that takes several chapters as they reveal themselves, but I'm finding these characters are a little more reserved. I've also been distracted by the day job, by the new baby in the family, etc., so I haven't been able to spend as much time as I'd like. But life's like that, sometimes.

"Flora" from
Flora and the Zephyrs - John William Waterhouse

I've also been doing research for the story. The hero in my new novel writes crime novels about art thefts. The Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite periods have jumped up to be noticed, and I'm learning a lot about John William Waterhouse. Back in grade school, we had an art appreciation class that exposed us to classic works of art (thank you, Mrs. Najarian). I also live near Chicago, where we have a fabulous Art Institute, which is calling out to me for a visit.

Every novel has to have conflict.  Goals, Motivation and Conflict. GMC. My hero is pretty well set, as far as all that goes, but my heroine has been a little more standoffish with me.  As noted last week right here on my blog, I have been trying to determine what her deal is, and I've come up with two scenarios. The one scenario is almost a cop-out, it's been done a million times, including by me in Intimate Distance. The second is a little more interesting, and I did an interview over the weekend with someone who has been through that particular scenario. That one would be a challenge, because it requires sensitivity and deep emotional content. Yes, I'm leaning that direction, but it does make me nervous to do so. So I'm going to jump in and see how it plays out, reserving the right to go back and change it to scenario one. BUT, this reinforces the title of this post - the joy of research. I have learned some very interesting things, and I'm re-discovering some beautiful pieces of art.

Research can be a form of procrastination. An interesting subject can take you down all sorts of roads and alternate scenarios, but that's part of the fun. The most important part is knowing when to rein it in, knowing what it is you want to write about. Sometimes the research changes your original intent. Either way, I always enjoy learning something new, or dusting off knowledge that hasn't been used for a number of years.

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