Ever notice how authors know so many random things about a lot of stuff? That’s because in order to create conceivable worlds, we need to know how those worlds work. That’s where the whole an author only writes 10 percent of the iceberg thing comes from. You need to know so much on the back end in order to write a realistic setting. Learning all that can inform other stories down the line and even if it doesn’t, it makes for a bunch of random facts for the back pocket.
For instance, did you know that after the passing of the Metropolitan Police act in 1829, constables’ uniforms had stiff collars to avoid strangulation as they were definitely not a welcome sight around the city? Because thanks my research for The Red Door, I do.
To help put this in perspective, you’ve probably heard stories about getting lost in Wikipedia or falling down rabbit holes on the internet. One search leads to another leads to another and so on …
Story creation works that way too. Let me give you an example.
I’ve talked a little about this before, but my new story all started because I wanted to do something with a deep sea diver. OK, when did they do hardhat diving with a breath line? Well, the Navy still used the Mark V helmet up through WWII (I had to learn that …).
Well, I don’t want to use that time period, but I like the idea of a soldier, so how about after WWI?
OK. It ended in 1918.
Well, I don’t want it to be RIGHT after, so let’s push it back to 1919.
Well, my protagonist has seen enough battle. He wants to settle somewhere idyllic for a while. Oh and there needs to be water.
How about the Mediterranean Sea?
That sounds good. Lots of history there. I can base him in Greece.
What was Greece’s role in WWI? How would the react to an American fisherman living there now? If he’s a diver, he’ll need a tender, probably a local, so was this guy in WWI as well? Also, in 1919, Greece was gearing up to fight another war against he Turks and his tender would be involved with national sympathies and …
See what I mean? You make a couple of decisions and the threads just start appearing. Do I need to explain all of this in my own work then? Absolutely no, but I need to understand the interplay and relationships because its all going to inform what I write.
It’s been fun doing the research. I was just reading something about sunken treasure ships which lead me to Egyptian ports which lead me to trade routes and the list goes on.
I may have directed this journey, but remember it all started with me wanting to do something with deep sea diving and it spun out from there.
To me, that’s what makes storytelling so much fun. Yeah, it’s a lot of work putting all these pieces together, but change just one facet and the entire story changes. That’s why, the last time I tried this, I got from the Marianas Trench to spaceships.