The Fog of Research & WFMAD Day 13

My head hurts. I overstuffed it with facts and dead bodies and ghosts yesterday.

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BH and I drove out to a couple of Revolutionary War sites and met with a man who has been studied the events that happened there his entire life. I took a million photos and asked half a million questions.

I’ve already done the background research for this novel and I have a pretty good sense of how the events in the character’s life unfold in conjunction with the historical events he’s caught up in. Now I’m doing the “boots on the ground” research: visiting sites and bugging the experts for the small details; the real-life stuff that many academic historians don’t put in their books, but that make scenes come to life for readers.

As always, going on location helped me see my story with new focus. We stood on the site of a ferocious battle. Cattails and grape vines are growing out of the dirt that was soaked with blood 231 years ago. Despite the heat, I shivered and had to fight back the tears.

The sense of time evaporates in places like that. It feels like the battle happened yesterday, or it’s about to happen in the next hour, or in the next five minutes. The enemy is ready to explode out of the woods without warning, tearing across the cattails and marsh grass. Musket balls will rain across the field, dropping horse and ox, biting into the trunks of the beech and ash trees that line the road. We and They will fight hand-to hand with bayonet blades and hunting knives and axes. Our muskets are used as clubs because there isn’t enough time to load and shoot. Fathers and sons and husbands and brothers will die in this forgotten bit of woods. The survivors will weep and dig shallow graves for the dead before hurrying away, knowing that the enemy is hiding in the shadows.

Then the cattails will start to grow again.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Right now it feels so close to me, I can feel the weight of this coat on my shoulders.

I’ll spend today putting my notes from the trip into the proper scenes. But if you’re looking for a WFMAD prompt, here it comes.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: daring.

Today’s prompt: I’m calling this one Fork in the Road. List three significant choices you’ve made in your life, then list the alternative to that choice. Choose one of the paths you didn’t take, and write abut what might have happened if you had chosen that instead.

OR! List some of the life choices your character makes and change one of them. Write out how it affects the rest of the story; what are the unfolding series of consequences from that decision?