Thursday, October 2, 2014

Do Your Research!

So, I might be writing a historical fiction novel about the Salem Witch Trials. I say might because I've got two other novels I'm working on, though I've theoretically abandoned both to focus on getting into college. I can write books for the rest of my life, right? But this is my last chance to be a high schooler.
Last night I stayed up until 11:30 creating a thirty three page presentation on important players in the Salem Witch Trials. A few days ago, I contacted a descendant of a second cousin five times removed of Ann Putnam, Jr., one of the most vocal accusers in the trials, and asked them for a family tree. I haven't officially dedicated my life to this book. Yet I've spent a huge chunk of my day wondering whether Ms. Goode, who was either four or five when she was jailed for witchcraft, was named Dorcas or Dorothy. One source said Dorcas/Dorothy had a sibling. A brother? A sister? Older? Younger? I have no idea. Then another source comes along and says she was an only child.
My last book was a Sleeping Beauty retelling. I researched the guts out of that story. I read every folk version-along with scholarly analysis of them-multiple times. Then I researched themes, motifs, symbols, and historical interpretation of the tale. After that, I gave my self a crash course on spinning wheels through the ages and conditions that can cause extended sleep. Finally, I scoured the internet and my local library for other Sleeping Beauty retellings. I mapped out the elements of the tale and the way different authors twisted them.
After all this, I read the first chapter to my creative writing class. The teacher-the teacher-asked me, "Are you going to follow the original Disney?"
I've spent the last several years wondering, "Should the enchanted sleep stem from a prophecy, like it does in Giambattista Basile's 1634 tale, or should my princess be cursed like she is in more modern versions?" But everyone who picks it up will say, "Hey, she renamed Maleficent."
You know what? I can't read everything I can find. Because I can find too much. I'm going to read everything helpful. 

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