Friday, May 28, 2010

The Never-Ending Spiral of Research

I suppose there does come a point where all the research is done and there is nothing more to learn about a time and place you are writing about.

I'm currently working on a novel set in Boston in 1774-1775. There's a lot I don't know about the time and place (and the whole saga of why I've never yet been to Boston can be a post for another day), but there is a tremendous amount that can be learned from the internet and good old fashioned books.

For example. I thought I'd start the story with the beginning of the closing of the Boston Port on June 1, 1774. Then discovered that the new governor arrived in the province a couple of weeks before that. Perhaps that would make a better starting point.

Reports indicate that when General Gage (the new governor) arrived at Long Wharf he then proceeded up State Street (which would have been King Street then - thanks to an old map I found) in a parade up to the old State House.

Cool, my character can be watching the parade of people going to the State House. Sounds like a good starting point.

Then I read more. General Gage was escorted by the Boston Cadets.

Hmmm. Who were the Boston Cadets in 1774. Turns out they were headed by John Hancock and were the ceremonial military unit that did things like escort new governors.

So, that's what my character would see. And she could reflect on how smart they looked in their uniforms.

But, wait. What did those uniforms look like? Back to Google.

It turns out the uniforms were Scarlet coats with Buff trim. The waist-coat and breeches were white. The buttons were plain metal washed with silver.

And what did all of this research get me? Well, my main character can correctly observe that the breeches were a stark white in the May sunshine.

And I wonder why I only got a paragraph written yesterday.

(By the way if anyone knows what the weather was like on May 17, 1774 in Boston, feel free to share that information - my research didn't uncover that tidbit.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sharing Blogs on Monday

Mondays are tough. And since I front load my week with chores, Mondays often feel like they fly by without me even getting a chance to think a coherent thought. So today I want to share some blogs that celebrate writing for kids and teens.

1) I may not be from Texas, but the Texas Sweethearts have a special place in my heart. Jo Whittemore, P.J. Hoover and Jessica Lee Anderson have teamed up in a truly spectacular way. If you haven't watched any of their videos you are really missing out.

2) Vivian Mahoney is the HipWriterMama and she uses her blog to encourage writers with inspirational videos, thoughtful writing prompts and contests of all shapes and sizes.

3) Mitali's Fire Escape is where Mitali Perkins chats about books between cultures. Thoughtful discussion and inspiration are never in short supply.

And last but not least for today, a new blog and the reason I thought to do this post at all:

4) The League of Extraordinary Writers is where four deput YA dystopian authors (Beth Revis, Julia Karr, Angie Smibert and Jeff Hirsch) are gathering to discuss all things dystopian. Go check it out! They have a contest going right now - you might win something fun!

And now, to finish the laundry and put away the groceries and then maybe I'll get some writing in before the kids get home (see why I need inspirational blogs?)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Waiting for the Plot Fairy

You mean there isn't a plot fairy?

What if I leave candy? Would that help?

It turns out I have no problem coming up with great situations for stories, but that the actual plot of the story tends to be a little more elusive.

For example, the story I'm planning on working on next is historical fiction set at the time of the American Revolution. More specifically it's set in Boston during the time of the blockade of Boston and the Boston Siege. And here's the twist - the main character and her family are loyalists.

Neat set-up, right? But not a plot line in sight.

Because for there to be a plot something has to happen. My main character has to want something and there has to be something standing in her way and she should take action to overcome that obstacle.

And the plot fairy is not dropping those things into my lap.

As I was thinking about this, something occurred to me (unfortunately it wasn't a plot). My daughter complains that a lot of books she's read that are set in an earlier age tend to involve a girl who chafes against the restrictions put on her. For example, a girl who wants an advanced education, or to have an adventure, or to simply not have to sew all the time. And as I searched for the obstacle my heroine wants to overcome, I realized that provides a built in obstacle - the girl isn't happy with her situation and tries to change it. Instant plot.

But I think my character isn't going to mind sewing so very much, so I need to come up with something else.

Any time you're ready, Plot Fairy.