Saturday, 18 September 2010

Narrative Class [1]

This week’s narrative masterclass featured a guest lecture from James Robertson. His novel Joseph Knight is the first historical tome I’ve attempted (unless Empire of the Sun counts) and his lecture about the research process was illuminating.

Research is an area of extreme weakness for me. I don’t research because I don’t include facts among the fiction. Sometimes I google place names or historical figures. Real detail invigorates the wildest story, adds authenticity to the weakest. I often don’t research because creating replicas of our own world doesn’t interest me. The artifice of fiction is a pressing concern of mine, so stories can be anywhere, with anyone, names are interchangeable.

I could never research with the immense detail required for a historical. You have to have a genuine passion that will withstand about a year’s worth of work, then keep this up during the novel’s composition. I can’t think of one thing I’d want to spend three years researching or writing. Not one thing. Not even stripy tops or Radiohead.

That could change in time, of course. It helps to have history degree or PhD to do historicals, which James has. That would explain why he writes historical novels. There is a logic to these things. My brain dislikes ‘interesting facts’ or trivia. It couldn’t care less, and so facts do not accumulate in my head. Thank God we have Wiki.

I’m also considering options for a term two module. I was going to do genre fiction, but I’ve been swayed into doing creative non-fiction. Then again, that involves research, so I’m still on the fence. Did you know the first fence was invented in 234AD during the battle of Johannesburg? Neither did I.


  1. You probably do do research, just not the dry kind. You're obviously well read and aware of what's out there. What about the heather story? Was that not researched?

    I'm torn between genre fiction and creative non-fiction. But I'm positive that both will involve research.

  2. Oh gosh. Does this mean I have to write historical novels?

    And the research part is fun. It is stitching it all together that is a pain in the astronaut. (I think I just sweared like an American five-year old)

  3. K: True. Plus, it's never been easier to research now with the internets. Which I get through a loom.

    CC: I pictured you as the historical type. Or someone who'd write a rollicking epic with educational content. Yeah yerp.

  4. My wife claims I'm a walking database of useless facts and crossword puzzle answers - maybe I should write something historical.

  5. I always think the research is half the fun. I always come up with an interesting little something that I can twist and use in my own insane way.
    Oh, and Genre Fiction doesn't require that much research, trust me ;)

  6. I couldn't do the historical stuff either. I sometimes enjoy reading historical fiction, but there are so many different aspects to get right... the geographical, political, fashion, lifestyle... and only some small subset of that interests me enough to want to investigate.

    I am having to research modern-day Roanoke and gardening for my cozies and even that is pushing it.

    What DOES interest me as research though, is the variety of research that goes into pseudo fantasy stuff--mythology, creatures--that stuff is fun (too bad I don't write anything that uses it) and I am having a little fun with the research for SPYING novels--learning a little cold war history and about countries behind the iron curtain. I figure I can maintain interest enought to write about a generic spy, but not a specific one, where I'd need to learn all the actual players involved.

  7. Alex: Sci-fi also requires a heave of the brain, doesn't it? I had to research astrological concepts for my last novel.

    Jennifer: Hurray!

    Tart: Genre writers do get the cushiest job. A smattering of research here and there, then pull back to the plot and characters. I like this. For the terminally lazy, that is the life. (Present company excluded).