My father always secretly longed for a son, but he ended up with just one daughter [me]. However, being a very practical man, my Dad made the most of things by teaching me many of the ‘boy’ skills – such as gardening and carpentry – he would have taught to a son.
That quirk of fate left me with a life-long love of all things green, and mechanical. I’m not an expert at any of the weird and wonderful skills I have picked up over the years, but they have been very useful in my writing. Who would have thought that going up in a glider would one day help me visualize how the Vokh fly?
Unfortunately for me, sailing and hunting were never part of my skill-set, so today when I reached an important scene where one of my iVokh has to go hunting, I knew I was in trouble. But as always, Papa Google came to my rescue!
In the last two hours I have found all sorts of information about the primitive snares and traps used by survivalists, complete with interesting pictures showing how they are supposed to work.
Sadly, when I looked at those pictures all I saw were some rough drawings that assumed I would already know about the knots that make those snares work. Back to Papa Google…
Half an hour of frustration later I finally found the following video which gave me the key to the whole thing :
Now, if we compare the Poacher’s knot with a close up of a snare knot, it’s obvious the Poacher’s knot is the core of the double slip knot arrangement that allows the snare to snap tight around the prey!
The complete snare looks like this :
And yes, being completely anal, I had to try out that knot-and-snare arrangement for myself. It works.
[NOTE: no small animals were harmed during the course of this experiment].
Apart from wanting to show off share my new found knowledge, I also wanted to make a point about the type of research I, and most writers carry out to make our fiction feel authentic.
Very little of what I’ve just shown you will make it into that hunting scene I mentioned – because it is not necessary. Nonetheless, I have to know all about it so I can convince you the scene could be real.
Without all this research, I would have to fudge that scene, and sooner or later, someone would notice. My credibility as a writer would be shot, never a good thing. The greater damage however, would be to the credibility of my story, and that can be fatal.
As a writer of fiction, I ask my readers to suspend their disbelief, and come on a journey with me to a weird, alien place, peopled by even stranger characters. To make that journey possible I have to create tiny bridges between the iVokh and humans, bridges built of small details that they, and we have in common. If I build those bridges with honesty, my readers will learn to trust me on the alien things as well.
The flip-side of this trust is that it can be lost so easily. Every time something in the story jerks a reader out of my fictional world, I risk losing them for good.
The same principle applies to other areas of writing as well, such as dialogue, spelling and grammar. But that is a rant for another day.