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Research

It’s rather odd researching for a novel. You need to know a lot of details (even when your world is made up) but while you research you have to be careful to not put too much of your findings in your writing and bore your reader. It’s a fine line to walk down. You need to create authenticity with your details, but you can’t bash your readers over the head while fanning yourself with a smug smile that says ‘I know more than you do’.

For example, I spent over an hour trawling the internet looking up Bedouin musical instruments (I started off thinking Arabian musical instruments, but then thinned it down a little more). I researched what they looked like, where they came from, listened to how they sounded on YouTube, all for perhaps a paragraph and a couple of tiny references when a musical troupe performs for my protagonist. The instruments themselves and the music they created were overshadowed largely by their players and the dancer alongside them. Those characters in turn were overshadowed by my protagonist.

I could just have written ‘they played music’, but how does that help illustrate the strange new world my protagonist finds herself in? I detail my music, give you some sounds and a picture for your imagination to work with, but I don’t tell you everything I’ve learned about rebabs and khallols because frankly, the reader doesn’t need to know. The reader only needs the atmosphere the presence of these instruments creates.

That is what your research details are for, creating atmosphere – not showing how well you can comb the internet.

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