Saturday, March 21, 2015

Research: Getting the Details Right

Every fiction reader must suspend their sense of disbelief to enter and buy into a story, even one built on an implausible premise. One aspect of this requires me, as the author, to create a believable world where the details of setting and character agree with the reader's knowledge. If this happens, then stretching their imaginations and the limits of their belief becomes easier. This means getting the details right, and this often requires research. The thing to remember is all fiction is fantasy, and every fantasy needs a solid footing based on the perceptions of human reality.

All fiction genres take research for establishing details in the setting, even in contemporary settings where the reader might think that since the author lives in today’s reality, the writing of the setting is self-evident. Well, yes, it is, but it is also very changeable. If an author doesn’t have actual experience in a chosen place, they may not know local history, customs, and idiosyncrasies of that particular setting. On the other hand, if a reader does have familiarity with this place, anything that screams ‘untrue,’ makes them leave the story. Things as simple as how police departments operate can differ subtly or dramatically by location, just as laws can vary by community.

Historical settings make take gobs of research. I’ve been working on a story set in the Carolingian age where it seems on every page I find something else needs research. Other periods, like the English Regency era, are so popular books have been written on the peculiarities of the time for author’s using that particular setting. This might be a pet peeve. Having studied and read history, I pick out inconsistencies in fiction right away and incorrect details of a particular historical setting will throw me right out of a story. I’ve noticed, however, characters presented as more modern in attitude and behavior don’t.

Which leads to this: suspension of disbelief involves more than just setting. Today’s Regencies often contain wild per-marital sex, which was a big taboo for upper-class women of the time, but seems to work in today’s stories. Perhaps making a character’s behavior more modern makes them more believable or maybe relatable. ??? Yet unbelievable behaviors and traits in characters can turn off the reader.  For instance, how characters act and speak often differs by age, and nothing drives me crazy like a three-year-old character using the vocabulary of an eleven-year-old child. I’ve noticed children are often miscast by dialogue in this manner no matter what their ‘age’ in the story.

Of course, I write science fiction. For me, science or scientific theory must create the foundation of science fiction; otherwise, it is future fantasy in the truest sense of the fantasy genre. For my novels, I’ve had to research everything from psychology to if bio-formation of a block of rock planet can work and turn it into a life-bearing planet. Another research aspect was how faster-than-light travel might be possible without falling back on Star Trek themes. My hope is that as long as I can get the reader to believe the possibility, they will suspend their disbelief to enjoy (and believe) the story.

AS ALWAYS with the Round Robin, more authors give their viewpoint on research. Please hop to the following sites and enjoy the posts.
Margaret Fieland
Beverley Bateman
Skye Taylor 
Rachael Kosnski  
Heidi M. Thomas 
Marci Baun 
Anne Stenhouse 
Helena Fairfax 
Connie Vines
Kay Sisk
Fiona McGier
A.J. Maguire
Judith Copek
Lynn Crain 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

All Things Zero


ZERO, Oh, Nought, Naught, Nil, Null
Hindu-Arabic: 0
Ordinate: 0th, Zeroth
Neither positive or negative number
n + or - 0 = n; n x 0 = 0

Words of Zero
  • Nothing, nothingness, none, prefix un as in unseen, unobservable, extinction, empty, empty set, naught, nonexistant, nothing, nul, oblivion, void, zilch, zip
Counting wouldn't get far without this empty placeholder, so here's to zero.

Sciences, math, and technology:
  • Nullus or nulla, meaning nothing
  • Only 0 and 1 are used in the binary system
  • Rules of Brahmagupta, earliest known use of zero in mathematics, 628 B.C.

Symbols:
  • The goose egg
  • the Lemniscate symbol represents infinity in mathematics and eternity in occult studies (an eight on laying on its side)
  • image of urboros swallowing his tail shown. The classical Greek alchemist’s representation of Uroboros, the World Snake
Color: Color comes from the refection of white light. The absence of light is total blackness, representing nothingness. Black indicates no light. White in paint is the absence of pigment or color although there are mineral pigments used to create the white; thus, white also represents nothingness.

Zero’s prophetic references:
  • Naught represents the void, or the emptiness before creation. Zero can mean invisibility or death as in unobservant or gone, so becomes those who are nonentities, anonymous, nobodies.
  • Zero is akin to a self-emptying process, particularly of the ego. Therefore, it represents those who are unaware, in-cognizant, or oblivious.
  • In relation to one’s coming into existence, it represents non-existence or oblivion.
  • Zero as shown by the circle of pre-conscious totality, the Ouroboros Serpent with its tail in its mouth forming a circle around the collection of existence and non-existence. Isn't it interesting that most clocks and compasses were circular in shape, showing they included all of known existence. The Ourobouros perpetually lives off itself, like the universe. Ouroboros also represents a closed system and more recently, the human psyche.
Negative connotations:
Everyone who has ever been called a zero or a nothing, knows the bad side of zero. However, it can also be anyone who deceives himself (herself), remaining oblivious to his (her) own life or the lives of others.

Tarot Divination: The Fool's card upright represents a dreamer or a mystic who wants to accomplish great goals, someone who must be careful to make the right choices. It can also represent any start, but particularly of a journey. To be successful the Fool must plan, make good choices, and be prepared for the unexpected. It also means one chooses the path he takes, either good or evil. Perhaps thinking about a life's philosophy would be a good start. When the card is reverse in the divination layout it can mean a poor choice has been made, that the querier has been foolish or thoughtless.

Common usage, slang, metaphors, phrases:
  • absolute zero
  • goose egg
  • ground zero
  • na dah
  • nul op
  • sub zero
  • zero down
  • zero g's, zero gravity
  • zero hour
  • zero in – targeted
  • zero tolerance
* * *
Sources Some information is drawn from:
The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin
The Numerology Workbook by Julia Line
Zero to Lazy Eight, the Romance of Numbers by Humez, Humez and Maguire
Dartmouth, Number Symbolism in the Middle Ages site offers much info on Christianity and numbers.