Thursday, 28 June 2007

SERIOUS STUFF

On a more serious note, let's talk RESEARCH. Every time I hear a novelist talking about research my hackles rise above my head. WHAT DO THEY MEAN? Are they writing non-fiction? Are they a journalist trying to write fiction? Are they trying to be a journalist? Fiction is Fiction. It's made up. Dickens used to go for 12-mile walks around London. He would pass dozens, if not hundreds, of pubs. Instead of going in and talking to the customers he preferred to walk past, imagining the conversations and the characters. That's called fiction. Had he tried to re-create the customers his books would have been nowhere near as good, and probably long since forgotten. He used his incredible imagination to create a new world from the real world that he saw from a distance. I'm mentioning this because I become severely ill on reading historical novelists describing their in-depth research. Okay, as far as it goes for physical period detail. Beyond that, are you trying to tell me you have a recording of what so-and-so said 500 years ago? I think not. Where did I go to this afternoon? springs to mind. I came across a wonderful love and adventure story from the 17 century. My "research" consisted of reading enough to see the characters come alive in my mind. That's all. I'll check a few details, as a journalist I don't call that research. I could contact half a dozen experts. But none would be able to tell me how those people spoke, looked, walked, flirted, made love, drank, smoked, fought. At least, not beyond the flimsiest of probably inaccurate details. What matters here is THE STORY. Call it a theme, call it a reason for writing a book, call it a Rabbit in a Hutch, I don't care. The story came alive and that is what I am going to write. It's also solved another problem for me, about writing another historical love story. I wrote, directed and produced a play on that marriage but, in trying to remain faithful to the historical facts, completely lost the plot in trying to write the book. It's now had a hundred failed starts. I had lost sight of the main purpose of writing - to tell a story by bringing the characters, and the events of their lives, ALIVE.

1 comment:

Cole Terrier said...

Maybe Dickens couldn't afford to buy a pint.