Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Swimming in Research

I didn't realize it, but writing has been so much a part of my life for so long that I haven't really blogged much about it.  I forget not everyone has conversations about their character's point of view, whether there's not enough tension or too much back story.  Not everyone goes to the library at least once a week to do research or work in the fumes of the coffee shop's roasting machine.  People don't have withdrawals because they haven't opened their journal at the end of the day to fill a blank page with gel-penned observations of the day.  But this month, I'll make up for it...

As I was trying to decide on my novel project for this year's Nanowrimo (see yesterday's entry), I dug back through my notes and realized I had done quite a bit of pirate research that dated all the way back to 2006.  I wanted to base my novel on historic facts rather than some of the pirate myths from the movies.  For example, the idea of buried treasure is very rare; pirates spent most of their plunder on women and drink.  Walking the plank is also not historically correct; the idea first appeared in Peter Pan and it has become part of regular pirate-lore.

Some of my earlier research included a book called Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly who is a historian and authority on pirate research.  He also appeared in some of the bonus features on the Pirates of the Caribbean DVDs.  More recently we went to the Real Pirates exhibit at the Science Museum which was all about pirate Sam Bellamy and Whydah ship they had sailed.  There were a lot of artifacts - weapons, gold pieces, hinges, articles of clothing - that they discovered from the sunken vessel.  They also had actors and actresses dressed as pirates to answer questions.

My favorite book so far is Pirate Hunter by Richard Zacks.  It's the true story of Captain Kidd, and how he never intended to be a pirate, but got hanged for it.  It's a non-fiction book but reads like fiction with conflict, rich description and period details.  It's like a well-written dissertation that would never put you to sleep. 

With all the information out there, I wasn't sure where to start, and the thing about Nano is that you just write without even knowing exactly where you're going.  I think I got tired of all the common stories I kept hearing; I wanted my story to be fresh.  So, for right now I've got about ten books from which I'm gleaning information - I guess it's sort of like looking for treasure.  I'm taking bits of information from different books, making a general timeline, and seeing where things intersect in history.  It's proven to be very helpful.  The Golden Age of Piracy overlaps with both Colonial America and the later 1800s.  It also overlaps with slavery, Native American issues, and the outbreaks of smallpox and yellow fever.

One day and six hours left to Nano.  Hopefully I'll have more ideas nailed down by then! 

1 comment:

  1. I am ready to go and look forward to meeting with you next Wednesday.

    Write on!