Thursday 1 April 2010

Research and truths

I have been researching the back story of one of my characters today. She comes from Afghanistan. I have learnt a lot including watching a brilliant programme from BBC 3 which Alan Gibbons recommended entitled Women, Weddings, War and Me. Well worth watching as it makes you realise quite how lucky we are.
The most important thing about research is that it doesn't scream at you from the book but instead you know the narrative is informed by it. It can provide the depth and credibility that all good stories need. I love doing research but often find it takes me to places that I don't expect to go and opens my eyes to things I hadn't considered. Things that I take for granted. For example I was thinking about the noises of war and fear at which point an army Chinook helicopter flew low over the house making the whole place shake. This is not a strange occurrence and my children have grown up seeing numerous helicopters flying low over us and soldiers appearing in the road. It is just the way it has always been. But what if instead of being comforting as it is for us those are sights and sounds of fear. The low swooping vibrating thud of the helicopter as an intro to death and overwhelming panic. No giggling and waving at the soldiers. They may not be friends. They may not have time to ask what your name is or who you are. They are as afraid as you are. Run, run, run...not to catch the helicopter when it lands in the field close by, but run away from the one that lands in a cloud of dust. Hide, wait for silence. There are some children in this world for whom that is an everyday occurrence.
As a woman I have choices, I can be who I want to be, I can lecture, I can write and to a certain extent I can say what I want. I don't have to make sure men don't see me or that I don't look them in the eye. I am free and I naively believed that the majority of women were too. I was wrong. On a daily basis women are being beaten, forced into unwanted marriages, sold for the sex trade, treated as sub human beings. I thought we lived we an enlightened society in the 21st century following my research I am not so sure. I know I spoke about this in a previous blog so at the risk of repeating myself these are things which need to be spoken about so they can be stopped. Is this where stories can come in to play. I think so.
I will continue to research and find my truths for my story and if at the end of the day the novel touches one person's soul then I will be a very happy person.

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