iVokh and the Poacher’s Knot

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.

snare traps multiple

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!

snare poachers knot

The complete snare looks like this :

snare trap

And yes, being completely anal, I had to try out that knot-and-snare arrangement for myself.  It works.

snare hand

[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. 😉



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

31 responses to “iVokh and the Poacher’s Knot

  • WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Love this, & how personal you are 🙂

    My father wanted a son I am certain – but had four daughters. When I was 13 and he got a Filipina wife, she bore him a son but had kidney problems & the boy died & she did a while later. Part of why dad is a bitter old man!!!

    But I love the sound of your father “making the best of things” – teaching you what he did. As for your own teaching of self, inquiry into things, learning constantly – it’s just fantastic. I really like your style of living.

    Another great post 🙂


  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    I learned to tie my shoes. This is still the knot I use for most every purpose, because it’s really the only knot I know. This is bad, especially the knot is in drawstring pants that are still long enough for a growing child but are now too tight to fit the waist.

    Crazy inane research is good for writing, but it’s also good to tuck away strangely useful bits of information to use in one’s own life. Maybe I should write a story about a character who is good with knots…


  • laurieboris@earthlink.net

    Great insights! Earlier on I’d begrudge all those hours spent learning about topics that eventually got cut from the books, but I don’t think anything is wasted. And it may show up somewhere else. Or not. Like Chris said… it’s just fun learning new stuff…


  • Chris James

    Lovely post, ac. Totally agree with you about the research – we do tons that never makes it into the book, but we don’t mind because it was fun to do 🙂


  • Amber

    My dad did the same type of thing with my sister and I :). As a result, I’m now a hunter/angler/forager who loves to hike and camp. This was interesting though, as trapping/snaring is completely foreign to me.


    • acflory

      So good to hear someone else had a similar upbringing! We’re living proof the stereotypes are not inborn.

      I think I’d make a terrible hunter but… I’ve always had a secret ambition to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow. And I would love to know how to gather and prepare bush food!


      • Amber

        Well, if you have any questions, feel free to ask! My first bow was a traditional wooden longbow :P. As to bushfood, I only know some stuff that edible in my area.


  • EllaDee

    Even just putting together a blog post takes me into the realms of interweb research… and I too am inevitably sidetracked.
    I think my Dad also would have liked a son but had to make do with me until my half brother came along 20 years later. Dad’s a mechanic and I hung out with him a lot, but I wouldn’t say I had mechanical skills, more an awareness, and those dodgy mechanics and garages don’t phase me as I spent so much time in that environment.
    My presence in the Vokhtah world was seamless… it just drew me in, and often when reading I forgot where I was and felt more there than here… ooh I could have put that in the review… I’m so hopeless at book reviews.


    • acflory

      -hugs- Ella you make me smile just for saying that. And your review was just FINE!

      I once did a short adult education course on motor mechanics. Sadly the only thing I still remember is how to change a spark plug. Maybe I should add that skill to my list of ‘want to learn’ stuff. 🙂


  • Candy Korman

    I wish I had so many useful skills…


  • anneb54

    Like the others, I am fascinated to know of all the research that goes into your books, but may not see the light of day. But I was also interested in your comments about building trust. How true that if I can believe you when you write about things I know, then I am move likely to be convinced about the things that have sprung purely from your imagination. Fascinating.


  • metan

    I hate reading something that would be a great story it if wasn’t so full of holes. Reseach like this is invaluable, well done you!

    What would we do without the interweb, eh? I wouldn’t have anything to do with my day if I couldn’t waste it researching obscure facts. 😀


  • Honie Briggs

    Funny that none of the illustrations show the prey actually ensnared. Exceptional description of why research is important.


  • lorddavidprosser

    Many people forget that writing a book is a job of work and not just an afternoon’s pursuit from a lounger in the garden. Well done for pointing it out in such an entertaining way and giving some credibility to our craft.
    xx Hugs xx


    • acflory

      Yeah, it’s nowhere near as sexy as outsiders might think. I’m glad you enjoyed my little foray into knots and snares. It’s not exactly high tech but it /is/ real. 🙂


  • Kathryn Chastain Treat

    My dad had two daughters and no sons. I learned to sew and do crafty stuff like my mom and my sister learned to work on cars and do all sorts of carpentry.

    I loved learning about all the research to get your books written and out there.


    • acflory

      Ah hah! So my Dad wasn’t the only one. I should have mentioned I learned cooking from my mother, and a keen eye for antiques. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit her business acumen. 🙂


  • Jennifer

    What a great insight into how a story comes together. Of course you must research, but as I read this, I found hours lost just on the trap and snare hunting, in the middle of a writing blitz. And how easy it is to see the time it takes to write a book.


    • acflory

      Yes, the ‘hours lost’ is not normally factored into the writing process. I’ve learned to accept research as a valid part of my day without feeling guilty, well not too guilty at any rate. 😀


      • Jennifer

        It’s part of the process, but one we don’t always want to do. 🙂


        • acflory

          Oh I don’t mind the research! I just have to stop myself from getting too distracted from the writing. I have a capacity to go from one interesting snippet of information to the next like a blood hound on the trail. And suddenly the say is gone and I haven’t written a word. :/


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