Sunday, February 26, 2012

Research is never just research

Let’s give you a catch-up, shall I? I’ve finally had my appendix removed – on Thursday morning I had abdominal pains, went to work (almost collapsed a couple of times on the way), and after about half an hour was dropped off at the hospital. After almost a full day of tests I was booked in, and on Friday my appendix was removed. Consequently I’ve been booked off until the 7th of March, so I’ve got a lot of time on my hands – enough to hopefully recuperate and get plenty of writing done. :-)

As it stands I’m hovering at the 50k mark of the 3rd draft of Betrayal’s Shadow – it’s been slow going the last couple of weeks, due mainly to me being damned tired and concentrating on relaxing as much as possible, but also because of some of the changes I brought into the novel. I’ve introduced some new characters, given others a fuller role, and even changed some completely, so I’ve had to rewrite plenty of scenes so that they fit properly into the new narrative. I think it’s working, though – the novel definitely seems much more complex and there are plot threads that have returned after being excised more than 8 years ago in previous attempts at writing the novel. There’s much more I need to keep track of, but I’m enjoying the challenge – now, instead of two main plot-threads there are four, which will (hopefully) interweave and set up the two other books of the trilogy. I’ve also got some ideas for a second trilogy, but that’s for much, much later. :-)

Anyway, while I’ve been relaxing I’ve been reading more non-fiction. I’ve been reading Christopher Kelly’s The End of Empire, which focuses on Attila the Hun and the offensives that led to the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire. The book has not only been interesting, in terms of reading up on Attila, how he rose to power, how he skillfully and brilliantly played the Romans and Goths for utter fools, and so on, but also because I never realized that so little is known about him and his people. I mean, the only reason we know that Attila ever lived is basically due to the effect his existence had on the Roman world – there isn’t much physical evidence of his existence, or of the Huns. Even the last great battle that Attila fought before he died cannot be fixed to a certain location. And here I thought that there was plenty of evidence and information about him and the Huns!

What I also discovered were some very cool and interesting historical figures that are echoed in characters in some of the Epic Fantasy I’ve read. For example, there was a certain eunuch, Chrysaphius, who schemed to assassinate Attila – he makes me think of Varys, the Spider (from A Song of Ice and Fire). :-) And there was also mention of a Goth that made me think of Coltaine (from Steven Erikson’s Deadhouse Gates). These stood out for me because it made something clear – history is amazing and beautiful and unendingly interesting and can also be read for enjoyment, not just research. I don’t know whether anything I’ve read in The End of Empire will be useful but it’s damned interesting, nonetheless. :-) My next non-fiction read will be God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215.

So, read some non-fiction, even though it might not have any bearing on what you’re writing at the moment – you never know when a seed may be planted. :-)

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