Friday, October 05, 2007

Writing Journal: Unreality Bites #5

I'm planning to participate in Fully Booked's Graphic/Fiction Contest and this is a peek at my writing process.

Today, let's talk about research. In certain ways, writing these days is much much easier compared to say, twenty years ago mainly because research takes less time (for the most part... if you want a feel of Israel for example, nothing beats going to the location yourself). Instead of waiting for the library to open or finding a friend who took up anthropology or biology or whatever esoteric science, one can turn to the Internet. By no means is the Internet necessarily comprehensive but 1) it does give you a start and 2) it's available 24 hours. If you're writing time is at 1 am in the morning and you suddenly need to look up something midway through your writing, it's not a big chore to search for it on the Internet (especially if you're writing on the computer already or in my case, typing it in Google Docs). Personally, I also use the Internet as a dictionary, thesaurus, and etymological source.

Anyway, as much as Internet researching is helpful, sometimes it's just not enough. For example, currently I'm researching Polynesian myths and legends but unfortunately, my Internet sources aren't much help. Sure, there are alphabetized listings of personalities and creatures but that's not exactly a good way to start. One needs an introduction, not necessarily with the Creation Myth but not in an arbitrary point either.

But why is research important, considering I'm writing "speculative" fiction? In many ways, even when writing for such a genre, I noticed that for my writing style, the "write what you know" rule leads to a more natural voice. For example, I have no qualms messing with Filipino mythology. In the story I submitted to Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3, my duwende (something of a hybrid between gnomes, elves, and dwarves) weren't the duwendes you know from local mythology yet they were still recognizable despite their liberal alterations (I hope!). This is where I think creativity comes into play. I was more confident about tweaking them to suit my needs. On the other hand, the current short story I'm working on right now, I found that in one selection, I was a bit too faithful to the source material because I was unfamiliar with it. Mind you, being faithful isn't bad if that's the story you wanted to tell but in the previous selections, I was freely modifying my source material. If I wanted to remain consistent, my latest selection needed some changes, not just a virtual clipboard copy of the myth it was based from. (It's kind of hard to be detailed without showing specific examples!)

1 comment:

Oui said...

In researching subjects (even scientific ones), there ARE times that the rule Library > Internet applies. I even stumbled upon a Folklore shelf in the Gen. Ref. section of Rizal Library.

:D If you're lucky, you might even have contacts with people who are "scholars" in that field (hehe, for Filipino myths/legends, I ask a friend of mine in UP who's in the archeology/anthropology section).

Researching for the "back story" and following the adage "write what you know" is tough to balance--too little detail, the story becomes literally insubstantial, but too much of it will lead to reader-indigestion. And the term "a happy medium" is hard to describe--what may be medium to one reader might be over-the-top for another.

Anyway, I'm yammering...I should get back to my essay checking...