Remember those dreaded words: research paper? How everyone in class groaned, kvetched, grumbled and bitched?
Thing is, even though I toed the party line (high school is the bastion of conformity!), when I first discovered/was taught how to do research on a topic, I knew I’d found my holy grail. No. Really. Even now, the thought of researching something has my wee heart all aquiver.
- Discovering new information? Check.
- Uncovering data? Check.
- Learning new things? Check.
Sure, not all research is equal. There’s a world of difference between poring over hundreds of lines of accounting journal entries in a contemporary office setting and reading a sixteenth century ship’s manifest. Though, I will admit, for some, the former makes them salivate. I’m good with that. For me, the latter is both cake AND pie with sprinkles of chocolatey goodness.
Whether researching for a school paper or for a novel or essay, it’s like the best kind of crack; the world’s biggest and most bewitching scavenger hunt. In school, I devoured the “how to”, learning about primary vs. secondary sources, learning to use the card catalog and deciphering the Dewey Decimal System. The library was Mecca in so many ways. Not just as a place for wonderful fiction, but a repository for all this gathered knowledge about us. About people: how the live(d)/work(ed)/play(ed)/exist(ed). How can that not be utterly fascinating?
I could lose myself for hours in the stacks as one research source led to another and another and yet another. Piles of musty volumes at my elbow as I uncovered correlations, relationships, cultural and socio-political intrigues.
Therein lies the bane: the absolute addiction of research compounded by the current ease of discovery with the Internet. How on earth am I able to come up for air? Frankly, it’s really, really difficult sometimes. When I’m immersed in reading, for example, about daily life in the Tudor Court, it takes every ounce of willpower I have not to let myself get dragged into sidelines like women’s medicine in sixteenth century England and how that affected fashion. It’s an ongoing puzzle that begs to be put together like a complex Lego design: bricks upon bricks of data, interwoven and creating a pattern of interlocking information that eventually paints a picture of life.
Because that’s what entrances me: the mundane day-to-day cultural and societal aspects of humanity. How we do things. How we get along. How our tribal groups are/were formed. Egads, I’m doing it now! Hijacking my own blog post to wax rhapsodic about my passion. Hee!
The good part is that world-building and character-building allows me to take this addiction and channel it into productivity. You can see why I write. I have to explore all the things. All the ways we (as humans) fit together in social groups and behaviors. It’s a never-ending range of possibilities and I, as a writer, get to explore how ever many of them I want to.
When I construct my characters, my worlds, even in a short story, there’s a lot that my readers never see. Small bits of knowledge that shape who they are, like what toothpaste they use or their reading habits. It’s part of my research lust: I need to create believable people who seem real, whether they are protagonist, antagonist or catalyst…even tertiary characters get this treatment.
It’s not always fully conscious. I’ve not actually sat down and created a character sheet or biography for everyone, but it’s all definitely in the back of my head, humming along as I write. It’s kind of the DVD commentary version of things.
A while back, I created a “20 Things” list based on an internet fandom meme (e.g., tell me 20 things about xxx character(s) that we don’t already know). This list is included in my recent eBook: Collected Works from an Unrepentant Writer and was written sometime around the third series book. I think it’s time to revisit this and show you a glimpse behind-the-scenes as it were. This time, I’ll borrow from the 4 Things About You meme. Instead of focusing on Keira, this time, it will be all about Tucker.
Tucker Kelly’s 4 Things:
Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
Four places I have lived:
Four places I have been:
- Giza Necropolis, Egypt
- Gullfoss Falls, Iceland
- Hôtel de Glace, Canada
Four of my favorite foods:
Four of my favorite drinks:
Four places I would rather be right now:
- In bed
- With Niko
- Not sleeping with Niko
Four things that are very special in my life:
- My sister, Keira
- My place in the family as Keira’s Protector
- My strength, so I can protect my sister
So what do you think? Tucker can sometimes have a bit of a one-track mind, si? ::g::
Readers, I’d like to hear some of the things that you know about my characters from reading the books and imagining. From your perspective, what’s something you’ve gleaned or thought about the gang? Do you know what kind of toothpaste Keira uses? Or perhaps what Adam’s favorite TV show is? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I’ll pick one commenter at random and send them a free copy of Collected Works from an Unrepentant Writer in PDF, .mobi or .epub format.