Monday, December 21, 2015

Knowledge Pools

            I’ve said before that writers need to be experts on everything. It’s true. That’s how books are convincing enough to hold people’s attention. Make one mistake and... well, you’ve seen how the internet responds.

            There are two directions that knowledge for a book can come from, though. The first, and more obvious one, is to look something up when you need it. Do you need to know how silk is made? Look it up. You want to know how far a horse can travel in a day? Look it up. Maybe make a chart, because you’ll need that again. If you want to know a creative way to kill someone, look it up – and hope the police believe that you’re an author.

            However, that doesn’t solve the question of what to write in the first place. If you don’t know what a volcano is, you’re hero isn’t going to make a heroic escape from an impossible situation involving being suspended over bubbling lava. Even if you don’t know the particulars of volcanoes, as long as you know they exist you can look them up when you need to.

            That means writers need to know as much as they can about the world so they can incorporate their knowledge into their books. To a certain extent, that can be done simply by observing the world around you. It isn’t a joke when you see those (usually threatening) posts about authors putting random people they meet into their books. That’s what writers do – absorb the world around them, mix it up, rearrange the pieces they like and create art.

            There’s only so far personal experience can go, though. If you limit yourself to that, you’re missing out on a whole world of inspiration (even if you have the ability to travel the world, there’s still only so much you can learn). So, we turn to other sources.

            Books are great. That’s why we write in the first place – we love books, so we want to make more books. However, reading takes time (especially for slow readers like me) and most people only read for either enjoyment or specific research. You can pick up on some unfamiliar topics there, but it still has its limits.

            So, over the last year, I’ve taken to watching a number of the documentaries available on Netflix – and they are a veritable fountain of knowledge. Watching through the Planet Earth series made me far more aware of natural phenomena in the world that I never would have considered building into my world before, but are now a big part of bringing amazing settings to my books. Characteristics of animals help me develop more believable fantastical creatures. The Ancient Balck-Ops series (which I watched on Saturday – yes, all of it in one day) gave me great insight into historical tactics, weapons, and cultures that immediately had by mind swimming with ideas for how to improve my world.

            Now, to be fair, documentaries play well to my lifestyle. I have plenty of time to watch them, since I’m usually watching something while working for my chainmaille business. Still, I’ve yet to find another source that delivers so much information in a short amount of time – teaching about so many new things that can be drawn on at your leisure, and researched if more information is required for your uses. Documentaries are a gold mine of knowledge and inspiration.

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see my chainmaille, click here.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

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