Monday, July 7, 2008

But that's not possible… is it?

KAREN DUVALL
Currently working on: Revisions for my agent on my urban fantasy novel, KNIGHT'S CURSE

When you write paranormal and fantasy, research can be a challenge. And just because what you write isn't real doesn't mean facts aren't involved. Lots of the stuff I write is complete make-believe, but a bit of fact-finding research can spark some awesomely bizarre ideas.

I don't have a folder filled with links to favorite research sites. My needs change all the time and favorite websites disappear. The Internet is a very unstable world. So I usually start my research in the same place for every book: Google. And my research isn't complete without throwing in a look at Wikipedia.

What I love about research is where it can lead. A crazy chain of website links help me create a plot and inspire interesting subplots to go with it. Because I write fantasy, my fact-finding must be creative. How many fallen angels do you know? Any thousand-year-old Seljuk Turks hanging out in your neighborhood? Do you keep the mummified remains of a prophetic saint in your closet? No? Welcome to my world.

When I started plotting KNIGHT'S CURSE, I knew I wanted a heroine unlike any other. I thought she could be a descendant of something legendary and powerful, maybe even mythological. A goddess? Been done to death. Amazonian? Meh. But I liked the idea of a warrior. So I started Googling and discovered an order of female knights from the eleventh century called the Order of The Hatchet. Now that's cool. So my heroine became a knight in an order that, in my world, still exists in the 21st century, only instead of fighting soldiers in a medieval Crusade they fight supernatural evil in the city.

I also wanted to stay clear of vampires and were-animals of any sort. Dragons? Too big and bulky. Griffons? Closer. Demons? Too stock for my needs, though I did use one in a small role. A little surfing online got me thinking about gargoyles. Now that had potential. The whole turning to stone thing? Oh, yeah. I was all over it.

The plot began piecing itself together from all the tidbits I'd found in my research, and I had a blast making it work as a story. All these diverse subjects connecting in cool and unusual ways made a mad sort of sense, and the glue was my own dark and twisted imagination.

Could I have written this book without the research? Probably, but it would have been a different book and might have taken me three times as long to write. The resources at my fingertips freed my imagination, even expanded it. And I ended up with enough material to write an entire series. High speed cable and WiFi. I don't know how I ever got along without it.

7 comments:

Minnette Meador said...

This is awesome, Karen! I love the idea of using the internet for researching fantasy...nicely done, girl. M:)

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Minnette! There's so much online that it can be overwhelming, but it's just another tool in our writerly toolbox. 8^)

Jessica D said...

I know what you mean about online research. You follow one link to another to another, and before you know it, you've mixed Aramaic etymology with Hindu spirituality with punk rock... Or is that just me?

Susan Lute said...

Karen, your story sounds fascinating, and your use of the internet intriguing. You may have talked me into being brave and trying some leap frogging for my upcoming single title romance :), which is not a fantasy, btw.

Karen Duvall said...

Jessica, that's exactly how it is for me, too! A cyber collage of information. And Su, I love the word "leapfrogging" to describe hopping from link to link. It really is fun... and addictive. My latest project is a steampunk urban fantasy, and the stuff I've found... Did you know the deepest hole in the planet is in Russia and it's 40,000 feet deep? Now tell me if your life isn't richer for knowing that important fact. 8^) Ha!

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Karen!

Sorry to log on late. Yesterday turned out to lead me in different directions than I had originally planned -- kinda like Internet research!

Your story does indeed sound fascinating. I can't wait to read the published version. (Positive thinking here!) Very good point of digging beyond the "normal" or what's been done many, many times. That good to remember for all stories, not just fantasy.

Thanks for an intriguing journey into research!

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Genene! 8^)