I’m fully immersed in my story. I’m in “the zone,” typing madly, but this story is practically writing itself. Then one of my characters hands another a cup of tea (insert sound of screeching brakes). Wait! Did they have tea in 13th century Scotland?
Turns out they didn’t. Change tea to honeyed milk. As my writing brain is fully engulfed in the story, the researcher lobe is pulled from standby to high alert. I engage the “find and replace” function to make sure all references to “tea” are removed and replaced with appropriate alternatives (ale, whisky, cider).
How is a 13th century women’s dress structured? Is it a frock or a gown? The reader needs to know that some gowns were laced up the back, while the corset laced up the front. These are important details for the reader to see when the male love interest is in the process of undoing them. Slowly.
My research companion came along on an outdoor trek, discovering and documenting the names of Scotland’s flowers, birds, trees, and general climate. We discovered an abbey ruin and spent an afternoon with its architectural features, building material, and appearance as age and weather took its toll.
Will readers know about the hours of research that went into this story? No. But they’ll appreciate and invest in it. Why? Because the reader will experience a story with a setting and elements of detail that are appropriate to the time. It will be easy for them to immerse themselves into the world of the story because it is authentic, accurate, and believable.
I love research. Why? Perhaps it’s residual discipline from my college Art History courses. I use it now to create an authentic story for readers. At the same time, I am learning and imagining, which are great building blocks for an awesome story.
Image credit: Anne K. Hawkinson