M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Monday, March 22, 2010

How Now Research?

The Read:  Research?  I've been have fun reading a middle grade adventure story about a girl who travels through a portal to Clovis times in the Texas Hill country.  This is definitely a time period where current fiction writers don't have personal experience, so how do you make it real?   Do you think it's even important to get your facts straight?

The book:  Peni R. Griffin's 11,000 Years Lost.  Is this fantasy?  No more than any daydreaming kid, I think.  Here's an example of how kid lit has always skirted the boundaries of the the real and the imaginery.

Griffin's end notes on her research were notable -- she hiked the Texas Hill country were her MC tramped with a Clovis band chasing mammoths, their favorite prey.  Time/distance ratios change if you travel by car or by foot.  I also think you have to try hiking all day to get an idea of how each aching muscle reacts to the terrain.

While there is a lot of personality conflict among the band members open to change and those who aren't, one thing stands out loud and clear in the book:  how central food is to hunters and gathering bands.  The MC has problems adjusting to to the limited diet, bugs, dirt, and limited world view of her adopted band members, but her biggest problem is how she can return to her own time.  Griffin does a good job in foreshadowing the pieces of the solution as well as coming up with a realistic one.  --  A nice example of effective novel construction.

Web Notes:  Are you looking for an agent?  Do you want to do it right?  If so, it's important you don't piss the agent you query off.  To prevent this, you might look at this The Guide to Literary Agents link to four articles discussing agents' pet peeves:

The blog is among my extra-useful links and is always worth reading whether Chuck or a guest is the author. 

Progress:  Maren is learning English.  The problem: how does she do this without pages of showing.  Also, does her magic help her learn fast?  I think so ... or else I'd get bored writing it.

And Emma popped her binder open when I mentioned research.  Emma might be called a historical since it occurs in 1921, but research thing was crucial here when considering the material environment that was similar to our own but very different.  For example:  This was about the time various people were experimenting with selling peanut butter in grocery stores.

The internet was a great place to find dates and pictures of artifacts (appliances, decor, clothes, foods, etc.).  The surprise came when I realized I used a lot of my personal experience for the background.  I knew that I channeled my mother (who had me late in life) for expressions, but I didn't realize my mom was 11 in 1921 until one day I did the math.  I also grew up with people who lived in houses that had been much remodeled beyond when they were build in the 20s.  Guess, your life experience shows up in your writing even when you don't consciously try.

Trivia:  Another nice warm day, but snow is lurking in our future.  It's spring in the Rockies.  --  The snow/freezing better not kill my peaches this year.  I don't care about the apricots.  

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