Tag Archives: research

Need to Know

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As a writer it is very easy to get drawn into a rabbit warren of interesting but ultimately useless information.

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The most basic way this happens is when I set out to find one simple piece of information. I had a character, I wanted her to be from France, and so I googled for a map of France. I picked a city name. I lingered on the Wiki page for that city – which was pointless all I needed was the name.

Incidentally the city I decided on was Draguignan – which I changed to Bordeaux when reading it out as I wasn’t sure of pronunciation.

Then there is background information. What do I need to know?

How indeed?

Many years ago I began planning the background information for a science fiction novel I was working on. The ship had many aliens on board and I wanted to know everything about the crew. There were 900 aboard and I wanted to know all their names, races, ranks, and ages.

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Why? Because of Star Trek. I grew up watching Star Trek. For other children it was Disney but for me it was Star Trek and TNG and DS9 are still two of my favourite shows. A common feature of those shows, and all the Trek shows, was the crewman who would be unaffected by wherever was threatening the crew this week.

So when I was crafting my own universe I felt I needed to know exactly how many of each race there was. Therefore I would know which crewmen I could use for any given story.

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Also to understand command structures I have done a lot of research into the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many other navies around the world. I have looked at ships, ranks, positions, and have come to one conclusions. I will never understand. The question I am struggling with is how much do I need to understand? A question I need to answer by the start of November.

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I would love for someone who knows of the navy to be able to read a novel of mine and find it to be accurate. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to do that is to literally find a reader with that expertise. There is only so much google can find.

I don’t know exactly what form my nano novel will take. I have tried to plan but I just want to start writing. Five days from when you read this it will all begin.

My solution to the gaps in my knowledge is to skirt the issue. The nature of the story is that I can just invent my own world. If it isn’t the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but instead the Royal Navy of …. well I don’t quite have a name yet. Then there can be no mistakes.

If that fails I have to accept that I don’t kneed to know everything. Do I need to know every Seaman, Leading Hand, Petty Officer, Chief Petty Officer, Warrant officer, Lieutenant or Lieutenant Commander? Probably not.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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Circumstantial Evidence

Sometimes I get bogged down in research. This happens in one of two ways. Either the answers to the questions are not forthcoming and I spend all my time jumping between sites or I get engrossed and suddenly know more than I ever needed to know.

As a writer I research a variety of things: the United States Navy, the Royal Navy, the New Zealand Navy, nurseries, the effect of a vacuum on the human body, village post offices, the travel time between New Zealand and New York, the average age of a Naval Lieutenant, Police procedures, the Salem Witch tries, explosives, guns, nuclear weapons, and Ford Prefect Cars.

These are not all for the same story. I do wonder though what conclusions someone might draw were my Google searches ever called into question.

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