This Week in Research

Sorry about the sporadic blogging. The heat here has been unbelievable, and we’ve now had a record number of 90 degree + days. Last summer, we were all talking about how mild it was, but this summer appears to be trying to make up for it. It has me downright lethargic.

Anyway, I find myself researching some oddball things while I’m writing, and I thought it would be fun to blog about what I’ve researched lately.

I’ve set my story in a post-Renaissance era, in a “French-speaking country that’s not France.” For a fairy tale retelling (Cinderella this time) I’ve been researching a surprising number of masculine things:

French Ship Names. My hero is a 1700’s era entrepreneur, and in that era instead of buying tech stocks, you bought shares of a ship. So what to call my ship? I researched French ship names, and I discovered that the French loved to name their ships after either saints or women. So I called my ship le Belle Jeanne.

Early Organized Sports. Hunting and shooting were the big sports for that era, but what did teenage boys do while at school? It didn’t seem practical to put a gun in their hands and pack them off to the woods. So I researched football, rugby and cricket (I knew a bit about the origins of baseball from high school history). And it appears that the term “football” is safe to use going back at least a few centuries.

Vehicles. What kind of vehicle would a young man like to drive in the 1700? I remembered from my Jane Austen that they liked two seat open carriages. So my young man drives a landau.

French Endearments. I almost got sucked into the hazards of the French language here, and I still want to run my manuscript by someone who speaks French to make sure I haven’t done anything stupid. I was looking for an endearment and I discovered that the wording changes depending on whether you are talking to a man (mon chéri),or to a woman (ma chérie). Yikes!

Some things that are still flagged as needing research: the likely contents of a ship coming back from the new world (so far I’m going with silver, the knowledge of which I piked up from playing Pirates! years ago) the likely contents of a vegetable garden (not going to spend too much time on that one), and how usury worked–the common terms of a loan and stuff like that.

I love research and the Internet does make it fun. But sill, I have fond memories of libraries, encyclopedias and microfiche viewers, so it really is the research that I enjoy, and not just the Internet. Do you enjoy research, and if so, what is your favorite research memory? I’ll share mine in the comments.

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16 thoughts on “This Week in Research

  1. Tia Nevitt

    My favorite research memory is of microfiche. I was researching something for a college project when for the first time, I had access to the microfiche viewer. I’d turn the dial one way and whoosh! All the newspaper articles would go flying by to the right. I’d turn the dial the other way and whoosh! they’d go flying by to the left. Something would catch my eye and I’d yank the dial to the stop position, and then slowly turn it the other way until the eye-catching photo would appear again. It was just plain fun. I was totally distracted from my assignment!

    1. That does sound like fun. {SMILE, wink}

      I enjoy research a lot, myself. That’s part of why I studied library science. It not only gave me good excuses to research, it taught me how to do that better. {Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. I love reading what random research writers had to do for their stories (it always astounds me when people dismiss reading fiction as non-educational — I learned so much peripherally from the setting details!). I’m nerdy enough that bibliographies mentioned in the endnotes make me happy.

    My favorite research memory is when I went to the Hoover Institution Library, where you have to page any book you want to look at — that is, go up to the desk and request it from someone. The description of the Hoover Institution is the lofty “a public policy research center devoted to advanced study of politics, economics, and political economy–both domestic and foreign–as well as international affairs.” But the book I got from them was a practical guide to knife-fighting. The library clerk looked at me funny and asked cautiously exactly what I was planning to do with the information in the book.

    Just a quick note regarding the way French changes for feminine and masculine nouns — I believe it should be “la” Belle Jeanne instead of “le.”

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Oh, that’s a great story. I’d love to go to a place like that.

      A French speaker emailed me and said it might be correct in a historical context, which it is. I don’t mind using a modern ship name if it is less jarring for the modern reader, but I got the ship name from a list of French ships in the 1700s. So what do you think–should I use the modern or historic usage?

      1. Oh, if it’s historical, ignore me and go with it! I should’ve known that my high school French would be inadequate for actually advising someone on the language… [grin]

  3. Chicory

    It’s fun hearing about the research topics. Now I’m really curious about how they all fit together. If the setting is a French-speaking country that’s not France, it must be related to Rurutania. 🙂

    My favorite research memory is the time I was able to use Tolkien as the subject for a paper. It was the easiest paper I’ve ever researched. I just went through my personal library. 🙂

    1. Tia Nevitt

      It’s an imaginary country! With a coast …

      Ok, that’s the kind of research paper we’d all like to do.

      1. Chicory

        By coincidence, Rurutania is too- but without the coast. Have you ever read `Prisoner of Zenda’? If you haven’t, you should sometime. It’s the swashbuckling tale of a little known event in Rurutanian history. 🙂

        (I may be spelling Rurutania wrong since I don’t have the book in front of me.)

        1. Prisoner of Zenda! I remember reading that book and enjoying it years ago. I think it has a sequel as well, and there’s also a movie.

          1. Tia Nevitt

            Maybe I’ll look for the movie. My reading time is somewhat constrained at present.

  4. Tia Nevitt

    I used to write for–get this–the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series. They used to put out a “Plunges Into…” series and I wrote a bunch of science articles on everything from how digestion works (ick!) to the speed of light. It was all work-for-hire, but it paid well. And I got to have a lot of fun with research.

  5. I always enjoy hearing how other writers do their research. I have to admit my first stop is usually my local library. I go online and search their catalogue or roam their shelves looking for useful books. It’s amazing how often I hit on a random idea that will work in my story context.

    I’ve done a little research on carriages. Enough to be dangerous. I thought a landau was considered a vehicle more for ladies? Wouldn’t a man drive something more sporty? I could be wrong…

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Wow, I’m glad I posted this! I’ll check this out a bit deeper.

  6. When I was in college and doing research, my favorite method was to look up several aspects of my topic, write down the call numbers for relevant books, and then go browse the shelves in those general areas. I always found plenty of interesting books I hadn’t found listed in the catalogue.

    Now I’m boring and mostly use the internet.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Oh, yes–browsing the shelves was definitely fun! I still miss the card catalog. Sometimes you could find some gems just by stumbling over them in the card catalog.

    2. That was recommended in Library school. If the call numbers worked right, nearby stuff is often related, even if it doesn’t appear in the same search. {Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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