Tuesday, 13 October 2009

It is surprising how much research

needs to go into a work of fiction. Yes, I admit I am writing the sequel. I promised HRH Whirlwind a sequel. She sat still long enough to read the first effort, liked it and demanded more. It was all very flattering and I was foolish enough to give in and - promise. You do not break promises to ten year old children. They are inclined to remind you that you - promised.
So, there is research to be done.
I am of half a mind to make Miss Whirlwind do some of the research - after all the plot centres around the young heroine doing a little research of her own. I know what the answer would be though, "You just have to look it up on the 'net Cat." Miss Whirlwind is, in all likelihood, more competent than me at this.
I think I feel sorry for her. Sitting at a computer screen and typing in search terms is not like heading for a library and looking at real books. I remember when, frustrated by the lack of material in the library of the last school I attended, I went off to the State Library. This serves the whole of South Australia. All those years ago it was, apart from the university library, the major resource for research. When I did not find what I wanted there the librarian directed me over to the university library next door. The librarian there was a little startled to find a school student asking to look at a book. It was really not 'allowed' I was told but I was allowed to sit down and read the chapter in it there and then. It was, I thought, real research. The librarian even took time out to show me how to cite the reference in the correct fashion.
Now I do use the internet. I need to know all sorts of things. Much of it can be found on the internet. I need to know what Winston Churchill was doing in 1916 and when he was knighted. I need to know about the location of lighthouses and who held certain public positions.
I can find all that I am sure. It will not be difficult. What will be difficult is something quite different. I want to know what these people were like. How would my young heroine and her friends feel about them? Would these public figures respond to a request for information? How would they respond? That's the hard part.
The internet is a fine thing, a useful thing but it cannot replace people.


Rachel Fenton said...

It is surprising how much research is met with - 'but why do you need to know that?' in our house!

I sometimes think people would be easier to understand now, let alone in the past, if they were at arms length - on the internet. What with all this communication technology, nobody seems to be able to just speak anymore.

catdownunder said...

Oh! In our house it is just assumed that, if you ask, you want to know and there is no need to know about it. Mind you I do sometimes wonder why my father wants to know something! He has a very inquiring mind for someone of 86, very inquiring indeed.

Holly said...

I think Ms Whirlwind might surprise you. She might be intrigued by the thought of helping to shape the next book.

The author that I have found to be most true to the WWI era in fiction is Anne Perry (especially her WWI mystery series).

Now, are you willing to let the Sponge Monkeys record the first one so that it is available to more than Ms Whirlwind?

There is a real lack of good fiction for the under 21 set that is contains neither dragons or vampires.....

Rachel Fenton said...

My daughter (8) is pestering me to write more stories for her, she's even provided me with a list of essential elements it must contain! Not sure I'm up to the brief though!

She really likes historical fiction, by the way, she's read about lots of stuff in the 1800s, pioneer stuff, all memoirs type things of children living in the periods, but obviously written now by someone adding other facts/information. One she liked the most was a diary of a slave girl. Butkids are surprisingly keen on history; it's only when they get to secondary school and it's called HISTORY by some dusty stuffed shirt that they dislike it.

catdownunder said...

The first one was set in the
1950's and was intended for a ten yr old. I have given a copy to Vanessa Robertson at Fidra Books but she has been too busy with other things to read it - she keeps telling me she will but...
The second one includes the same children but also involves a photograph taken, most likely, in about 1916 (but that is part of the mystery!) Not sure it is of Sponge Monkey interest but let me know!
Rachel, try and find The Woolpack by Cynthia Harnett and read it with her - it is one of the great classics of historical literature for children...about the wool trade in the Cotswolds.