I took archery class last year from a guy named Doc who is an ex-Navy Seal. It was fascinating, and the most surprising part is that I wasn’t awful at it. In fact, I was pretty good for a first-timer. Even won one of Doc’s coveted “Eagle Talon” awards – which I have yet to string onto a cord to wear like a warrior queen, but I WILL! The reason I bring this up is because when I started Red August I was writing bits about August Archer and archery. And I could have actually used only what I found in my written research to write about those things. But I did find that connecting to the activity gave me a fuller range of language and tactile experience to help me to better write about the experience of nocking an arrow, for example. Sadly, I didn’t make it to this year’s class because I was working so hard on the book that every scrap of spare time was sucked up by it. But once we get it launched on August 19th, I’m hoping to take a break of a couple of weeks from writing and then start fresh with Red Archer. I’ve already started it, and I might not actually be able to stay away from it, but I am feeling pretty worn out at this point. Below are photos from my archery class.
While Will was editing Red August during the last round of editing, I was reading On Writing by Stephen King, which I highly recommend to anybody considering a career in writing stories. My friend Kristen, who I consider a brilliant person, recommended it to me, and it did not disappoint. On Writing made me feel both encouraged and excited about the gears of writing. That was a first! I have a whole list of other books I need to read about writing, but that was the the bunch that were suggested, and I loved it.
One of the things about writing a story that isn’t straight make-believe is that there tends to be research involved. Now, you could argue that there is no need to research werewolves because they are not real, but if I want to honor the tradition of folklore, I need to–at the very least–honor certain rules about werewolves that have been established. For example, werewolves are partly man and partly wolf. I can fiddle around with how they look when they change, where they originated from, how much of the creature is a man and how much is a wolf and so forth. But there are basic elements that I feel I have to respect if I hope to keep the interest of people who like werewolf stories. The same goes for fairy tale traditions. Red Riding Hood needs to have some familiar elements to make it Red Riding Hood, or at the very least a Red Riding Hood homage.
With other elements of the story, I need to be more careful about the origins. The internet has made research so much easier than it was when I was younger. I remember sitting in the local library as a kid studying lightening and its various incarnations. That was when I learned about ball lightening. As you can imagine, even with two or three books about lightening in front of me, the information was limited compared to what you can get on the internet, PLUS videos. At your fingertips! Of course the internet doesn’t replace all forms of research, nor should it. Fortunately I have a library two blocks away.
Here are some links that I am finding useful for my Red Archer research. Though reading about things is great, whenever possible I try to experience them. I would love so much to visit some of the places I mention in books, but even if I was a full time traveler, that might be hard. One of my favorite new ways of experiencing a place I am writing about, when I can’t actually go to it, is to use Google and their feature where you can drive around a place. If it has a public road, you pretty much can go there on Google. I’ve also found Pinterest to be helpful in certain aspects of story writing. This is my Pinterest if you’re interested in following me and looking at the boards that relate to the stories I’m writing.
Below is a video that is extremely interesting about Irish/Gaelic language. Last year I was learning a bit about Spanish and Arabic – just enough to say the most basic conversational things, because I work with people who speak those languages. I often wish somebody had plopped me into language immersion classes when I was in third grade. Anyway – language fascinates me. I am going to go back and see if this guy has more videos. Things like this are so helpful to me and I am grateful for them. In part, because I’m writing a story from scratch at 70-100k words and I don’t have the time to research every single thing that I write about, and of the things I do research, I need them to be easy to get through, otherwise the books would take five years to write instead of one or two. Incidentally, Red August is just shy of two years in the making–which makes all of this book writing stuff more nerve-wracking. I expect book 2 to go a lot more quickly because all of the main characters are fleshed out.
The links below are some examples of the things I’ve been using to research Red Archer. I have no idea how my book would do within the culture it pays homage to, but I think if nothing else it would help show things from the perspective of an American of descent from that culture. If there’s one thing I’ve found to be true, it’s that people’s tastes and interests vary widely.
Now that Red August is about to be published, I’m both excited and nervous. Doing this type of research helps me feel a bit more steady, not to mention it’s all fascinating! Also, I’m a lot more familiar with the wildflowers of Scotland, which I can’t be the least bit sad about.