Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Rewrites and research

Well I have been busily working away at my rewrites thanks, as detailed previously, to the kick-start ideas that were sent to me. It has been going relatively well as I cut numerous chapters and wrote new ones to replace them. It was during this process that I became aware (again) quite how important research is. I always maintain, and tell my students, that research is important for adding depth to your story. It allows you to ensure that your voice is authentic...or as authentic as it can be bearing in mind it is being written from a teenager's perspective by a woman who should know better and is definitely not a teenager.

Doing these rewrites has meant I have had to remember what I saw when I went to Normandy at the end of June. Now I am the first to admit my memory is not always the greatest. Luckily I did the sensible thing. I took masses of photos and filled a notebook with details of what I saw, smelt, felt, heard and ate. The majority of which will not end up in the novel but are there as an aide memoire. For example, in one of the new chapters two of the characters are walking towards the cathedral in Caen. It is a large gothic building with looming spires. But I wanted to focus on the detail. I remembered there was something about the gargoyles that had intrigued me and was maybe something that could tie into the novel. I went back through my photos and there it was a picture of said gargoyles which are not gargoyles at all but are almost dog like (see photo above). If I hadn't taken the time to take all those photos these sort of details would have been lost and the novel would have been the worse for it. Not because they are vital but because research can add such depth and vitality to a manuscript.

I also do a lot of research via the Internet. It is a wonderful resource - as long as you check the credibility of the site. Over the bank holiday weekend I twice found myself in a situation where I needed information. The University library wouldn't be open and despite the numerous books I have none of them could supply the information I required. So I turned to the old friend 'Google'. You ask it a question and it comes back with a variety of pages that can solve your problem. I was able to pick up the single word 'sawback' which I could use when describing a knife. It gave the impression of violence and potential damage that I wanted to create. Then I was able to find the lyrics of Muslim lullaby part of which I could include. I wouldn't have known where to start with that if it wasn't for Google. And I have to say, their translation application is vital for someone who managed to get U in her French O'level despite being in the top set...

What am I saying? I suppose I am suggesting that you keep all your notes, pictures and ideas as you never know when they might be useful again. Just remember all research is like disposable writing (disposable writing I see as characterisation, creating a sense of place etc that you write so you know your characters and where they are inside out) it is there to add that touch of actuality to your piece. That sense that the reader can 'suspend disbelief' (S Coleridge) and can be sucked into the world that you, the author, has created.

So as opposed to location, location location...I would like to suggest research, research, research...

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