On Avoiding Research

I may have said in a previous post that, at heart, I’m a lazy person. Of course, I may not have because typing all those letters just seems like too much effort…

But anyway, the point is, that I don’t generally do a lot of research. I write in the realms of the fantastic– fantasy, science fiction, or in the space between– so most of the time it doesn’t really matter. I don’t sit down before I write and think, ‘I might need to know this and this and this’, then look them up and have a file ready for when I need it. I’m more likely to get into a story, discover I need something, then hurry off to Mr Google to find out. And once I have what I need to know– and nothing more– it’s back to the story.

That was what happened with The Brightest Light. I decided to have flintlock weapons so I spent half an hour learning the basics– a few words and stuff like that– then back into writing. I’m not sure if I even printed out any of the information. Or saved it. Or anything else. I have a pretty good memory, so I rely on that and try to not the the details get in the way of the story.

By that, I mean that if I spend a week learning everything there is to know about flintlock pistols, I’m likely to want to put that into the story. But the reader doesn’t need to know exactly what the gunpowder is made from, or where the flint was found, or… whatever (I’ve exhausted my knowledge of things I don’t know, so that will do (-: .)

The reader just needs to get the feel for the weapons, they don’t need to fire them.

But sometimes I miss out on some interesting stuff that way. Stuff that could be added to the story? Sometimes, but mainly just stuff that is interesting.

moaiTake the moai, for instance. They are the big statues located all around Easter Island. Now, I knew they were big. I knew they represented ancestors in some way or the other. And that was all I needed to know. I found out what they were called and scurried back to insert the name into the story.

But… Those big statues are BIG. The average height is 4 metres. That’s over 13 feet to you Americans. The average weight is over 12 tonnes. That’s the average. The heaviest is a 10 meters tall thing called Paro that weighs 86 tonne. And these things were carved between 500 and 800 (approximately) years ago. And then they were transported from the quarry to various places around Easter Island. No, admittedly, Easter Island isn’t all that big, but we are talking about a place that probably doesn’t have front end loaders now, let along 500 years ago.

The same sort of stuff can be learned about Kivas. Kivas (Tuki’s planted is named after them) were built by Pueblo Indians for (probably) religious reasons more than 700 years ago. That’s all very well, until you discover that the largest of them, at Aztec Ruins Nation Monument,has four stone pillars holding up a 9 tonne roof. And the four pillars stand on discs that weight about 160kgs, and these discs had to be transported about 65 kilometres.

Would any of these facts added to the Tribes of the Hakahei? Probably not, but they are sure interesting to know and make me think I should just read stuff for the fun of it more. I used to do it as a boy, pulling out random non-fiction books and reading. But now that I have so many other things taking up my time (family being the main one– and I’m not going to complain about that) I really don’t get the chance.

(I’d just like to point out that time, not lack of desire, is generally the reason I don’t do a lot of research, but that ruins a good story.)

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