Tag Archives: research

Brief Update, Research and Impatience

I’m still working on this Falconer’s Apprentice idea, and I’m trying to go about it sensibly.  Very difficult, indeed!  I’m planning to do considerable research, and have found a pdf of an 19th century reproduction of a book written in 1486 on hawking, The Boke of St Albans, which I hope will provide me with enough background on how falconry was actually practised in the middle ages – thus giving me some semblance of chronological credibility!

I’m still trying to work out whether this will be a fantasy story or historical fiction.  Currently I’m just seeing what will happen.  I’m thinking that this could easily be merely one plotline amongst the backdrop of many, and thus have the scope to create a widely explored fictional realm.  Again, whether or not that incorporates fantasy elements, I’m still not sure.  As you may know, I’m always drawn to fantasy so it’s likely it could happen, but it would need to occur organically.

I forsee some trouble for a story with such scope, though, and that’s something which lies in me alone and not the story itself; I’m impatient.  I’m terrible at taking my time with my novels, always wanting to rush ahead to the most important conflicts, and thus everything always reads as rushed and not properly thought-out.  I hope this project can help me work on that!  I’m excited to write it, though, and that’s something I haven’t felt since before the Summer of Creative Absence.

I might forgo this year’s NaNoWriMo, however, if I’m busy working on this story.  I’ve written NaNo novels in the past two years, but I feel that the type of writing I was doing for them is exactly the kind of rushed, poorly thought-out stuff I’m trying to avoid with this story.  But I hope that I can maintain the discipline of writing substantially every day which NaNoWriMo really helped me get into the pattern of doing.

And now I must be off, go to my amazing day job and frolic with falcons!  I kind of love my life.

The Witches of Fife, Research and Other Nonsense

As you may or may not be aware, Fife was rampant with witches in the Days of Yore.  In this attempt to write my Kelpies Prize entry I’d been looking for something I can research inherent to Fife, which I can rely on to give me the credibility I lack from not being natively Scottish (and yet trying to write Scottish children’s literature).  And from a half-remembered lecture given back in my student days with the Pagan Society of St. Andrews I recalled this particular bit of information.

I’ve been looking for inspiration with hints of the supernatural, and this might be perfect.  My favourite children’s stories are the ones that escape the bubblegum-pink prose where everything is well-meaning and the danger isn’t really all that dangerous, like bumbling pirates and laughable ogres.  I like slightly Grimmer stuff (as in stuff more like Grimm’s Fairy Tales and less like a Disney film) with shades of grey.

So, witches it is.

I’m not sure if I want to pursue the supernatural angle, or the historic-political angle, but to be honest I bet I’ll end up doing both.  I’m also not sure what time period to set this in, mainly debating whether to set it historically or contemporaneously.

Luckily, there seems to be a wide range of local-interest library books I’ve found in the subject.  For example, The Witches of Fife: Witch-hunting in a Scottish Shire and The Weem Witch.  So hopefully through research I can work out a lot of the details and find inspiration for a plot.

Look at me go, actually researching things before writing them!  Before you know it I’ll be outlining and everything!!!

I’ve also been rereading Harry Potter books, partly as research for what’s expected writing-style-wise for the age group, but also just because why not.  For all that I whinged about J.K. Rowling and her oh-too-perfect ending, I do like reading them.

And I secretly wish I had my own Hedwig!

Not that J.K. Rowling actually knows the first thing about owl behaviour, as I’ve come to realise.  Hedwig was “fast asleep with her head under her wing”??  Pah!  Owls don’t sleep like that!  But hey, maybe magic owls are a whole other shebang, who am I to know??

The Boys of Cobault

In yesterday’s post I talked a lot about Wollstonecraftian feminism and how it pertained to Euphemia, my female main character in Cobault – but what about the boys?

Algernon is my male main character, and I’ve realised that he represents an unknown quantity, contradictions, in a world where everything has to be quantified, documented and labeled.  He has no family, and even his surname, Black, is a lack thereof.  He’s working class, but he’s literate.  He’s naive, but he has this all-encompassing power.  A talent that even, itself, has no name.

Together with the group of lower class boys Algernon befriends, they are that educated poor who refuse to play the part “assigned to them by nature”.  They choose to defy their place in the societal structure, and work towards becoming successful on their own intellectual merits.

And to highlight that defiance, there is a group of unpleasant, spoiled rich boys who are part of a club, “Academy for Academics”, which seeks to rid the institution of these lower class and female students who sully what they believe the Academy should stand for.  They, alongside society itself and the sprawling influence of the patriarchal company, Endicott, are the villans of the novel.

The ringleader of “Academy for Academics”, Arkhaven, is a character I’m hoping to develop properly enough to illustrate his complexities.  His motives are at once terrible and understandable; he only wants to prove himself to an abusive father, and he hates all women as a reflection of his feelings towards his victimised and weak mother.  Rage, violence and desire have become twisted together in his mind and, as the abused becomes the abuser, he terrorises prostitutes.  He’s the sort of person you can see becoming a serial killer, Jack the Ripper style.

Arkhaven’s cronies are his peers, other boys from influential families, over whom he’s in control and is masterful at manipulating.  They all share the same belief in the inherent superiority of the wealthy class, and the feeling that women and the lower classes need to be kept in their respective subjugated places in society.  They try to enforce this, feeling like martyrs to the cause of maintaining the reputation of their class and the patriarchal system.

Their usual victims are lower class boys and girls, but then they’re faced with Euphemia.  As a girl from high society, she presents even more of an affront.  She’s one of them, throwing the system on its head; as the most threatening Other is the Other that looks like the Self.  Confronted with this threat, Arkhaven becomes obsessed with destroying her.

I’m at the stage in my re-writing when I’m still building up a lot of this conflict.  In my first writing of it I glossed over far too much and simplified things that shouldn’t have been simplified.  I also rushed into the story at break-neck speed, so I’m currently trying to pace the whole story much more sensibly.  But as the first draft was in fact a NaNoWriMo novel, I guess that’s only to be expected.

I’m really glad I’m taking the time to fully explore what I’m trying to get at through writing Cobault.  These recent posts have been helping me focus and refine my vision of the novel.  However, I also just need to get stuck into continuing to re-write.  There’s only so much research you can do before the research itself actually hinders the writing process!