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I Think I...Suck at Research.

Discussion in 'Research' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Nov 4, 2016.

  1. I think i suck at research. Does anyone here relate?

    Honestly some of it is probably plain laziness. It's hard to motivate myself to sit down and do research, especially research that will take a lot of time, effort and fruitless searches in the dark, deserted reaches of the internet. I get bored easily, too. I gave up on an idea recently because I got bored 30 minutes into researching. I mean, that might have been a sign that the idea wasn't for me...if i can't get into the source material, how could I get into the story?...but I fear it's a trend.

    Also, I have no idea how to organize my research topics, or stay focused when researching, or where to start, or how to find material. I'm distractible. VERY much so. When I research I often end up tackling all my subjects at once practically, hopping from one topic to the next without going into any depth on any of them. Or I just get distracted entirely. While researching tropical rainforests I ended up watching a documentary about how the palm oil industry is destroying East Asian rainforests and threatening their wildlife. An important and interesting topic, but not terribly relevant.

    Right now I'm making a list of research topics for my WIP (that's the first step, right?) and I'm already feeling stressed and overwhelmed by it, because I know I'm no good at it and I have no idea where to start on these subjects. What to search on Google. Where to find resources. How to not end up printing off dozens of pictures of Antarctica or watching History Channel documentaries.

    It bothers me because realism, detail and accuracy are all HIGHLY important to me, and I don't want to be that author who earns the eye-rolls of all the Goodreads reviewers.

    My list as of now:
    -Knives, specifically throwing knives. What kind of knife is best suited for throwing (shape, size, weight), what is your range like, what kind of wounds would they inflict, how much power can you put behind it, how accurate is a thrown knife. Does a knife actually spin when you throw it? What's the wrist motion like, if it even is a wrist motion? Is it at all a reliable weapon?
    My WIP is full of knife throwing and I'm like 98% sure 98% of it is all garishly inaccurate. There are two or three details I know nothing about IN THE FIRST LINE.
    -Guns, because my characters using knives as ranged weapons is making the left side of my brain uncomfortable and gun>knife in most cases, so is there a reason for my characters NOT to use guns? (this is a modern setting).
    -My character gets put in prison for murder without a trial. (Post-apocalyptic modern setting.) How would I pull this off? I just want to lend some realism and I have no clue how being put into prison works. Under what circumstances would not being given a trial work? How does she find out about her charge and sentence--or does she. I dont want to be describing boring legal proceedings. But I have no idea how to research this.
    -Prison life generally. I just want some details that will make it seem more realistic. It seems a bit vague and sparse now.

    That isn't all of it or even the worst of it. There are so many details I know are painfully wrong, and that I have no idea how to fix. Seriously, HALP MEH.

    No idea how to find resources on this, or how to coax the information I need from them.

    There's another factor to all of this that I haven't mentioned yet, but doubtless many of you have heard me whine dramatically about: research from personal experience. Obviously actually handling guns and knives would be far more valuable than merely reading about them, but HOW? And I'm not planning on going to prison. I could go to a prison without actually going to prison, but again, how would I do that??? Obviously I can only research so much, but there are perfectly researchable topics I have no idea how to dive into.

    Also, my anxiety makes getting out and asking people about things a bit scary. When I feel like I have to get out and try things and do things and talk to people, I want to go hide in a pillow fort. This is why I'm a writer! I think to myself. So I don't have to SAY my words IN FRONT OF PEOPLE!

    but when I try to research by reading it feels inadequate. I feel as if I must do the most complete research possible if I'm to research at all.

    And there's being young, not having done much, all that. But y'all have heard my rants on that.

    So, i want to ask everyone: How do you handle research? How do you organize your research? How do you stay focused? How do you find the right resources? I'd love to hear some suggestions because as of now I certainly do not have it together.
     
    C. A. Stanley and RedFable like this.
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I did some research on knife fighting years ago, it was kind of enlightening. These days, somebody has made a study of everything and put it on the internet, and knife throwing would be relatively easy to research. Knife wounds gets far more complex, you will see people make some stupid arguments about these. But, you can also look into various types of real world trauma stats from hospitals. Then for rapier duels, you can find plenty of historic accounts.

    Prisons and the process... you're talking post-apoc, you can whip up anything reasonable, really. You can go old west or less formal, yet. Some things can be researched to death.

    Organize: Scrivener now, much better than the chaos method of old with files everywhere, LOL.

    Handle it: I don't go overboard (mostly) I get what I need and get out, or I'll be there forever. See spending $150 on OOP books on ships throughout history, or books on Japanese swords, etc. I have them for reference, but I'm not going to become an expert n sailing a cog for a few pages of text... But I am prepared for a sailing novel!

    Right resources: Punch in the dark until you hit it in the nose. Some noses are easier to find than others. If your topic is broad, you might have to do searches associated, read forums, and dig resources people bring up. It can get hairy out there. In some ways, you can pretend you'r shopping for a part for an old and rare car... sometimes a detail can feel like that. You get zero hits or a million that are wrong... but somewhere... it's there.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    One at a time...

    I used to practice knife throwing a bit in my younger days (as in your age and a bit older). Threw knives at trees on the homestead. First, while almost any knife can be thrown, the vast majority won't last long unless designed for throwing (forged from a single piece of metal, blade tapering to a point). Otherwise, the handles start coming loose.

    Second, even with practice, just hitting a target twenty feet off is difficult. More, three times out of five, it'll hit edge or hilt first and bounce off. The rest of the time, well, sometimes it'll stick at a sharp angle, or it'll be the nice solid penetrating strike.

    But even so, thrown knives are seldom, if ever lethal. Most I ever had one go into a tree was maybe an inch and a half.

    Now, as to people going at each other with handheld knives, yes, that can get bloody in a hurry. Getting cut, though hurts - a lot. Takes determination to push through the pain. A few years ago, two idiots not far from me went into each other with switchblades in a trailer. They had about twenty cuts apiece requiring stitches, yet for all that, they didn't manage to inflict life threatening damage.


    From the next question, I will assume you mean 'modern post-apocalyptic.' Big thing here isn't so much the gun, as it is the ammunition. Ammunition is finite. Making gunpowder to reload shells is tricky and difficult - not to mention dangerous. More, black powder, the easiest to make, lacks the 'punch' of the powders used in modern ammunition. More, unless silencers are employed, gunshots are LOUD. The ones you hear in the movies are damped down substantially There are excellent reasons why people wear ear protection at gun ranges.

    In very rough terms, 'post apocalyptic' can be equated to 'third world' or 'barbarianism' of a sort. With that provision, arrest and imprisonment without trial are more the norm than the exception. Rule by gun - he who has the guns (and ammunition) rules the others. Also, life tends to be cheap in such societies.

    Post apocalyptic setting, think 'labor camp.' Long hours at hard physical labor (clearing debris, perhaps) with scant rest and little food.
     
  4. Thanks guys.

    Yeah, I have my character kill a guy with a thrown knife. (That's why she's in prison, basically.) She doesn't have to be far off, he could have been feet away. But ugh, realism is ruining everything.

    It's not that I'm going for a particularly realistic feel...but the perfectionistic side of my mind...

    I could have them get into a scuffle and have her stab him in the gut a couple times. Would be much more brutal than what I've got now. (When she kills the guy is the opening scene.) But then I have to scrap my really good first paragraph...*sniffle* Oh well.

    My character is a street criminal at the start, so it's perfectly realistic that she's never been able to get her hands on guns. But later in the story...I don't know.

    My post apocalyptic setting isn't anarchy, but it's filth and disease and crime everywhere in the cities, ruled by an upper class but the majority is in utter poverty, living in slums. Drugs, plagues going around, stuff like that. Everything polluted. So it's not like civilization has collapsed completely...but things are pretty bad.

    My main problem is getting motivated to research in the first place, then staying focused until I have all the information I need... I'd like to think that I internalize and use information well, just I'm no good at picking it out.

    In a few days I'm pilfering the filing cabinet from downstairs and putting it up in my room. I seriously have too many notes to keep up with, and I hand-write everything except the story itself (ideas transmit so much easier to paper via pen than a computer screen). So I literally need a filing cabinet. Multiple stories. plot, research, world-building, characters for each. Plus ideas for other stories or ideas I don't have a story for yet.

    This is going to be one of those 'highly incriminating search history' type research projects...
     
  5. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Then have her throw the knife. Unless she's been in many a scrape of that sort, she might not know how ineffective a throwing knife is. Plus, it might make for a nifty distraction to position herself for gutting him with the *other* blade. (Who say's she is restricted to a single knife?)

    Sounds like a post apocalyptic setting I am toying with in my spare minutes - the one with a 'forbidden zone.'

    In that situation, people who know how to make gunpowder and reload ammo are going to be worth damn near their weight in precious metals (or maybe beer). They WILL be monitored.
     
  6. That could work. She has at least two knives on her; I think that's explicitly stated when they strip her upon her being apprehended and imprisoned. She could throw the first, wound him but not seriously injure him, and then stab him to death once he catches up to her. This could be far more brutal and effective than what I have now. It also cements her in the role of being the dangerous badass she thinks she is. She makes lots of threats without carrying them out; evidence that she is very capable of killing would help her character a lot.
     
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Inch and a half into a tree is potentially more in a human, and depth only important up to a point, then it's where you hit. Much same way as seeing x-rays of knives through peoples heads... and they walked into the ER. A throwing knife being deadly (relatively) quickly is pretty much the classic throat shot and... yeah, the odds of that are? Unless you are Legolas, of course, or his cousin.

    Basic (what most people think of when thinking "knife") cuts are wimpy (outside of obvious locations, severing an artery or such) particularly switchblades which tend on the small size, while punctures are deadly but (mostly) slow... which is why rapier duelers could both end up dead. There are even stories of getting stabbed in the heart and living long enough to walk miles to the ER... there just isn't a hard, fast rule for killing except, well, the obvious... his head's gone! Yup, he's dead.

    At it's most basic, it's really simple for whether a throwing knife is deadly... check the statistics in medical sites about the deadliness of stab wounds, and weaken it from there. A stab has far more power and accuracy than a throw, and still, most people aren't going to die from a single stab wound IF they can get medical attention reasonably soon, and if not, infection is probably more deadly than the stab itself.

    Knife fights with real fighting knives (we're talking bowie knives, which might as well be short swords) are very deadly. Without armor, you don't need a sword or anything bigger. But again, if you're out to kill someone, more than one blow is best... don't be the idiot in the movie who knocks the bad guys down and drops their weapon, LOL.

    When it comes to knife wounds there are lots of things to consider. Is the blade sharp? How broad is the blade? Weight? Length? Stabbing someone int he gut with an unsharpened knife is less likely to do additional damage... intestines for instance or more likely to slither from the point and not be damaged, but with an edge, you are more likely to do damage as the intestine slithers from the path. All that fun gruesome stuff.
     
  8. KBA

    KBA Dreamer

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    You can experience some of your weaponry research first-hand at shooting ranges (guns and archery). Google one near you and find out what their suggestions are for beginners. and see if rentals vs. bringing your own is too expensive. Some ranges have occasional "sales" or Groupon type coupons for trying them out at little cost. There are knife-throwing competitions for observing body language and weaponry up close. If you don't like talking directly with people to gather information, listen passively to their conversations with others, and pick up what they say as you stroll around. From there, choose just one knife at least one competitor is using, and go with it. There will always be "better and worse" choices because everyone has their own favorites. Don't bother researching every possible type of knife and agonizing over which to choose. If even one actual competitor is using a specific one, it's credible enough for your character.
     
  9. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Back to the question of research in general, remember that YouTube and your local library are your friends. Even if you live in a very rural area like I do, your library can order books from larger libraries via interlibrary loan. Documentaries are also your friend. They're full of excellent images and interviews to inform and inspire. Many of them are online, free to watch. Wikipedia is a good place to start, but the really great thing about it is the works cited section at the bottom of each page. That's where you'll find your source materials.

    I also have a problem focusing when I sit down to do research, mostly because I have ADD among other things. My Asperger's balances it out a little, but not that much. What I do is read several books at once, researching different topics, so I can flit from topic to topic as I become restless. I also do research on the fly as I am writing about minor things like the history of the BLT or the payphone.

    And of course there's Scribes, as you're discovering. We're a wonderful resource for asking weird questions, like how to start a Harley Davidson really fast or just about anything you want to know about swords.
     
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  10. gia

    gia Scribe

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    In last summers' "America's Got Talent" they had a great knife thrower...I'd get inspiration from watching that couple! The woman (who was being thrown at) was awesome looking.

    As for how to organize your research..well, I'm a bit of a novice. For now I need a system for organizing links, etc that will keep my research available to me when needed. So if I see something I like online I throw the link for it in a file for that book (working on a 5 book series). Keep it simple is my motto or you end up using your filing system as an excuse not to be writing.
     
  11. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I love research. I am often at risk of enjoying the research so much that it takes away from my writing.

    I also use scrivener to keep it organized.

    Fortunately I do have something to tell you to help reduce your anxiety about research.

    I know one writer who hates research, is no good at it, and virtually doesn't do it:

    Lee Child.

    Carry on. :)
     
  12. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    You and me both, Russ. I spend days just reading about subjects which fascinate me.

    Dragon, writing as a young person is tricky because of the reasons you stated. But that's why we're here!

    Thinker X had some great info about throwing knives. One of the things that he didn't mention is that when you throw knives and axes, you have to calculate rotations. So, when I've done thrown weapons (very little), we have markings on the ground, and the fifteen feet line is like one and a half rotations, and the twenty foot mark is two full rotations. Throwing with accuracy at indeterminate ranges is super tricky. You really have to practice this skill every day to keep sharp at it, and I'm just not sure I know a single person who can throw like they do in Hollywood. It's much more impressive in movies than real life. I've thrown axes, knives, and spears. And you'd think the spear is the easiest because it's a straight line with no rotations, but still, it can be much harder than it looks. All our competitors have very small ranges for the targets, which are stationary and usually wood ( for knives and axes) or hay (for spears).

    The thing about research isn't about knowing statistics, really (which are readily available), it's about knowing what to show and what to hide, I think. As in, I'm a sword-fighter and have been for years, and when I wrote my sword duel, I avoided jargon and choreography, and instead focused the scene inside my character's head. See, I could have talked about blood gushing and swinging, and the clash of steel on steel, but it doesn't make for good reading, really. I put in a little of that, but the larger part of the scene was expressed in internal thoughts. Every cut he made, came after a decision. I'd be happy to share that with you if you'd like to see an example of what I mean. Anyways, I think that sort of writing actually plays to your strengths.

    my best advice is to find your concepts. Say, the knife throwing is what you really want, and it's the only way you can see this character happening. That's fine. Do a little bit of research on how throwing knives are shaped and decide how your character developed this skill, and then start a thread asking for people's personal experience throwing knives. You've got some folks who already shared, so that's a great start. Then, use your ability to get into characters' heads and describe emotions, and let that be the focus of your scene. The knife play will take a second seat to you main point, which is her confidence, her fear, or her skill set. However you choose to play it.

    Research is great, but depending on the subject, you can only get so far by researching the "tools" of what you're trying to write.

    I came to this forum in 2011, when I got stuck on a seafaring scene. I had done my research, but only came up with statistical info on ships, nothing at all about what life was actually like on a ship in the 16th century. So, I stalled out. I had no way of knowing whether what i had planned could ACTUALLY take place realistically (a bit of a mutiny and some other stuff). Anyways, so, knowing nothing of seafaring, I started a thread asking for help, and it took a year, but I eventually found Fluffypoodel who answered all my questions and I was very grateful, because I had my confirmation that all the things I planned were absolutely feasible.

    The thing is, when writing what you don't know, the main difference between that and writing what you DO know, is in how it affects the inner workings of the character. Here's another example I like to bring up from time to time (from the same book as the sword duel). I have a scene where a MC's best friend dies. I wrote the scene and it was all melodramatic and weeping and bleeding, and it was really weak. But it was the way I saw it, having never seen death first-hand before.

    But, a couple years later, I actually held my best friend while he died in my arms. Okay, it was my dog, and he was being put down, but still, I now had a personal experience, and I KNEW what it felt like.

    I changed the whole scene. I put in my personal thoughts I had during my experience. And people LOVED the scene. I didn't slowly show his life leaving his eyes, or anything else you see in movies. Rather, I talked about how light and quiet it was, death. How I held Orion and petted him, comforting him as he lay still, and the vet actually put her stethoscope on his chest and told me I could quit petting him then. I'm tearing up just writing this. It was so quiet. So subtle. He was laying on me, relaxed and ready to be held one minute, and then ten minutes later, I left with no friend. It was quite moving, actually, and it's such a vivid memory, because I preserved it for eternity in my story. And I'm glad I did. Everyone who's read that scene tells me how real it felt. And it was so because it WAS real. But I didn't need to experience it first-hand to write it, I just needed to talk to someone else who had, and I could have written it.

    If you don't want to interview criminals to see what prison is like, watch shows like Orange is the New Black, and collect data from real life programs on tv. And ask around on our forum. Surely, someone will share a personal story, even if it's in PM and not public. The thing is, writers deal with this sort of situation every day, so you're not alone. I've written plenty that I don't know from real life, and I get a lot of my information here, from this community, because they're awesome at sharing and are happy to offer real experiences.

    So, if you have subjects you don't know about, and you find yourself struggling to come up with things to say, start with statistics, then ask for personal experiences, then translate those experiences into your character using your own style and thoughts to balance them out. Embellish, or scale down whatever you need to, to create the right effect for your character and story.

    Best wishes!
     
  13. Thanks, CM. I'd like to say that I love the example of using your experience with your dog for the death scene. It really shows how you can make a scene real by thinking of things you have experienced and felt. (And I know how deeply you can love an animal...I have a dog I love dearly and I can't imagine losing her, really. It's cruel that a dog's life is so short :( ) (I kinda wish I could read the scene now, actually.)

    It makes me think, maybe "write what you know" isn't meant to be interpreted "don't write what you don't know" but "make the best use of what you know in your writing." I think with emotional experiences, or experiences that are hard to research, this is something that we have to learn to utilize. Even a tiny detail that feels real can help a scene.

    And, I'm struggling with this in this story, I've realized. Not just the technical stuff is bothering me...it's the experience itself. Do I know what it's like to kill? I don't. Do I know what it's like to keep your heart shut away from everyone, caring for no one but yourself? This one is hard because I tend to do the exact opposite: give way too much away, way too fast. Do I know what the darkness and despair of living only to survive and not knowing if you will see another day feels like? I can't say I do. And I can feel myself struggling with these, and many other experiences, on every page. I just don't know how to make them real.

    This might be part of my character motivation problems, come to think of it (as in the other thread.) It's definitely the source of some of my problems with tone.

    I know I was born with a lot of empathy and I think this could help me. Being able to feel others' pain helps. But it can only take me so far. Can't it?

    Research gets to be frustrating because you can get the facts, but what I want is, how did it FEEL? What was it LIKE? And that's what a story is really concerned with, not the factual details.

    I can figure out what it is like to throw a knife, but can I figure out what it is like to take a life with that knife? I don't know...
     
  14. I often love research too. I just get distracted and end up researching something totally unrelated to the story at hand.
     
  15. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    If you want any of my experiences, I'm happy to share. Also, here's the death scene:

    (This is a very late chapter, and throughout the novel, Daniela has been extremely selfish with her friend, Luca. He's her father's stable boy, and early in the novel, he was her best friend and confidant. But he was also someone she bossed around a fair amount. In the last scene together, they had a fight. He wanted to leave the city (where Daniela currently lives) and return to the country, because he feels out of place in the city and misses home. Daniela wanted him to live with her so he had opportunities, but he yelled at her, saying that she never once asked him what he wanted. He calls her selfish and discloses that he's always made sacrifices to please her, but he wants to make his own choice for once, and leave. It was because he stayed that he was stabbed by an enemy who didn't want to leave witnesses to a crime involving Daniela. This is what happens next)

    (Also, it's a first draft, so I apologize if it makes you throw up in your mouth a little. The dialogue is horrible and the personal details are rather skeletal. No beautiful prose in my first drafts. HA!. When i said people really had favorable things to say about it, we were all of the understanding that the whole story is in need of prettying up.)

    Luca made a gurgling sound and Daniela rose to tend him. Pallid, clammy skin—something was wrong. The foreigner must have sensed her concern, because he abandoned his post and leaned over the bed. He pulled aside the blanket and set a huge palm on Luca’s brow, fairly covering the boy’s face. “Behind the screen, there’s a pitcher and basin. Bring them.”

    Daniela leapt to obey—perhaps because he kept his voice overtly calm. While she tried not to get excited, her mind hummed with a confusing pulse. Like the infirmity that struck her when Lorenzo denied her love, it demanded her attention to the detriment of all else. The objects were heavy in her shaking hands. She took a breath.

    Thorne grabbed the basin from her when she returned. “Sit behind him,” he said.

    Daniela hesitated. “Shouldn’t we call a doctor?” Sweat tickled under her arms—a sudden prickle that alerted her control was slipping from her grasp faster than she could acclimate.

    Thorne didn’t answer as Daniela scrambled over Luca’s legs. “What do I do?”

    “Hold his head up.” Thorne tipped Luca, steadying the boy against his hip. For a big man, he had a gentle manner, shifting Luca with care not to jar him.

    More gurgling sounded and Thorne slid the bowl under the boy’s mouth. “Is that blood?” Daniela’s voice joined her hands in trembling.

    “Close your eyes if you need to,” Thorne said.

    “Where is it coming from?” Daniela didn’t want to look away. “What are you doing?”

    “Trying to clear his air passage.” During a cough, Luca inhaled. Liquid rasped in his throat.

    “He doesn’t sound good!” She leveraged Luca further over—half shoving him away so he didn’t drool blood on her, and half thrusting him into Thorne’s more experienced hands. Feeling useless and desperate, Daniela just wanted the foreigner to make it better.

    Somewhere between strangled coughs and a gasp, Luca’s eyes opened. Thorne didn’t seem to notice but he laid Luca on his back again. Daniela cradled her friend in her lap. He felt so light, weightless almost. His eyes met hers and she knew he was thankful.

    “Shall I get you some water?” she asked, and Luca responded with a phlegm sound, his mouth opening only a crack.

    When she scooted over to rise, Thorne halted her with his hand on her shoulder. “I’ll get it. Stay and hold him. It’s better that way.”

    Better? What was better? Daniela forced a smile despite her aversion to Luca’s sickly odor.

    Under arched brows, his glassy eyes stared up at her. A question.

    But what was he trying to ask? Luca didn’t appear in pain so much as he looked enthralled, perhaps an effect from waking after a long slumber. “Rafe brought us to his friend’s house,” she told him. “Now that you’re awake, I suppose he’ll take us home again. Maybe even back to Casa Fiordelise. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? If you and I went home for a while?” She wasn’t sure what to say but anything that might give Luca hope and strength seemed a wise choice. “Perhaps I can stay all summer, even.” Daniela gently caressed Luca’s cheek and wiped a trickle of red from his lip with her thumb.

    Thorne’s shadow fell over his placid face.

    “It’s late in the evening, now,” she continued. “I suppose it’s best to rest if you’re still tired. I promise to stay beside you.”

    “Signora?” Thorne asked. He held a blanket in his hands.

    “I thought you were getting water,” she replied, annoyed he’d forgotten.

    He pulled the quilt from Luca and tossed the faded wool blanket over his legs. “Water isn’t a good idea now. It’s....” He ran his fingers through his greasy locks. “When the body’s functions cease.... The blanket is to protect the bed and your skirts.”

    Wrapping her arm over Luca’s bandaged chest, she created a barrier between their embrace and the insistent bodyguard’s grim sentiment. “His fever is gone,” she said. “He’s on the mend.” Daniela leaned in to hear the words trying to escape Luca’s mouth. Whatever nonsense Thorne was on about, Daniela just wanted to bring Luca home to nurse back to health.

    “A moment of clarity,” he replied, quietly. “I’ve seen it before.” Thorne wouldn’t leave well enough alone. He lifted Luca’s legs and bottom off the bed and stuffed the tatty coverlet under him.

    Daniela’s patience wore thin. “I said enough,” she spat, shoving his hand away. “Leave him alone, already. If you want to be useful, fetch bandages.”

    For a brief moment, Thorne’s blue eyes fixed upon Daniela. Not in anger, but something else. “Forgive me,” he finally said. “I’ll give you a few minutes.”

    “You don’t need to leave,” Daniela said, regretting her snappy tone. “Just stop fussing. He woke up, that’s a good sign.”

    “It isn't. The rasp in his breathing speaks clear enough he’s short on time.”

    Though the sincerity in his tone struck her, Daniela couldn’t believe him. Everything she held dear had been pulled away. Not Luca too.

    “He’s dying, signora. I’m sorry.” Face pained and mouth downturned, Thorne knelt. “You comfort him in these final minutes. He knows he’s loved and that’s a great relief.”

    “Call a doctor!”

    “It’s too late.”

    “Can’t you do something?” She hugged Luca’s head tight against her chest.

    Thorne bowed his head. “To what end? Even if I relieved the pressure weighing on his remaining lung, it would only prolong the inevitable.”

    “How can you say that?” Her plea came out an angry scream but it was too late to take back. Invested in her demand, she leaned over Luca and put her hand on Thorne’s arm. “Please.”

    “I can’t.” He stood and turned.

    “Why won’t you give him time—to express his needs and say goodbye?”

    “It’s inhumane,” he said, spinning back to face her. “It’ll gain him nothing but a painful new wound and a few minutes or maybe hours to cling to this world.” He wore a dark glare and his voice matched. “You want me to cut a hole in that boy’s chest, so you can say goodbye?”

    Daniela’s vision blurred but she could read Luca’s expression still. The same one he wore since opening his eyes. He pled. His lips didn’t try for words any longer—open just enough to breathe. “No,” she said. “I don’t want you to do anything.” She kissed Luca then, soft and real, and whispered, “I can say goodbye for both of us.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
  16. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    No tears came. Even as his breathing slowed. Minutes dragged by, silent because she had nothing left to say. If he minded terribly her constantly stroking his hair, he gave no indication. Perhaps another sacrifice he made for her. “I’ll take care of Auric and her pups,” she said. “When we get home, I’ll make Father bring them in from the barn. They’ll feast like nobles and I’ll give them a bath before....” She didn’t want to say it. Her throat tightened, to think she’d have to organize Luca’s funeral.

    “It’ll be a grand event,” she said, choking. “Father and Andrea and Francesco will make sure you have a fine place to rest, overlooking the pasture.” Luca coughed again, flecks of blood landing on her arm and his chin. Daniela wiped his mouth with her sleeve. “A sunny place, where you can hear the sheep and feel the warm summer breeze.” His eyes had lost their plea and his lips twitched, trying to smile.

    Thorne went behind the screen and didn’t come out for a long while. When he returned, he carried a clean white sheet and a hand mirror. “Signora?”

    Perhaps tiredness had caught up to her. Or maybe numbness had settled in too fully. She didn’t acknowledge the foreigner, preferring to focus on her one task, easing her friend’s pain.

    Thorne placed his hand on Luca’s neck, then handed the mirror to Daniela, saying, “Hold this by his mouth. Tell me if it fogs.” He rested his head on Luca’s chest to listen.

    Daniela placed the mirror on Luca’s cheek, watching it, waiting.

    The door opened and Claudia entered.

    “Did it fog?” Thorne asked.

    “Not yet,” Daniela replied.

    “Is that Yvette’s mirror?” Claudia asked.

    Thorne sat up and enveloped Daniela’s hand with his much bigger one. He laid the mirror flat on her thigh. “Signora, his heart is stopped. You can hold him as long as you like. I’ll be out in the hallway.”

    “Don’t,” Daniela’s whispered voice came out before she knew she was speaking. “Please. Don't go.”

    He nodded and stood to give her space.

    Claudia set a plate on the table with a bang. “Call someone right now or I’ll do it.”

    “In a moment,” he hissed back.

    “Yvette’ll be home in a bit and you know who’ll get the blame if things aren’t to her liking.”

    Thorne hushed her and Daniela’s stomach churned. She could hardly tell Luca the things she wanted to tell him. Maybe in front of Thorne, who had been kind despite his rough edges. Claudia was another matter entirely. Daniela could barely stand another minute in her presence. And why should she have to? Claudia’s intrusion broke the peace Daniela was making with her friend. An inexcusable interruption.

    She slid Luca’s head off her lap, unnerved knowing he was no longer her friend, but an empty vessel. She stood–seething.

    Thorne covered Luca with the sheet and picked him up in his arms. He set the boy on the floor. “You should probably rest, signora. It’s late and the carter’s office won’t be open until the morning. We can place him in another room, where he’ll be safe and looked after.”

    “Not one of my rooms,” Claudia spat. “Downstairs perhaps. Maybe the cellar.”

    The tears Daniela held in threatened to burst out in rage rather than sadness. Her hand pulled back as if possessed and before she could stop herself, the hand mirror sailed toward Claudia. It caught her on the bridge of the nose.

    Broken glass tinkled to the floor and Claudia let out a vicious shriek. “You little bitch!”

    “How dare you?” Daniela screamed back. She dashed forward and caught the front of Claudia’s dress, shoving her backward.

    Thorne’s haste brought him between the women and like a brick wall he stood as an impenetrable barrier though slaps rained upon him from both sides. “Enough,” he roared.

    He grabbed Daniela’s hands first and held her at arm’s distance. Claudia he kept at bay with his left elbow.

    When her adrenaline faded and exhaustion won out, Daniela could barely lift her arms to keep up her attack. She slumped on the floor next to Luca. Tears spilled like a late summer rain.

    Thorne pointed at Claudia, wordlessly telling her to stay back. To Daniela, he said, “G.”

    “I have to leave,” she muttered in response. “I can’t stay here with her and neither can Luca.”

    “That’s fine,” Thorne said, as though nothing ruffled his feathers–ever. “Tell me where you want to go and I’ll take you there.”
     
  17. I love it. It's very tender and emotional, and as others have said, it feels real. I know I can't really get the full impact, not having known their whole story, but it's heartbreaking and I really like it.

    And no, it didn't make me throw up in my mouth. It's not THAT bad ;)
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >It makes me think, maybe "write what you know" isn't meant to be interpreted "don't write what you don't know" but "make the best use of what you know in your writing."

    Yes, yes! OMG yes. I know writers who would never say it means "don't write what you don't know," but they're influenced in that direction unknowingly. When they realize they don't know about something, they get shy, hesitant. I'd rather throw out both versions in favor of "make the best use of what you know." Heck, make the best use of what you believe, too. Which brings me to

    > I just don't know how to make them real.

    Another unfortunate side-effect of the "write what you know" maxim is that it makes it appear that to know is all there is to writing. Again it's not really there in the words, but I see the effect on individual writers anyway.

    Knowledge is overrated. There's also believing. A writer's beliefs--call them principles, faith, or call them George--are incredibly important in creating stories. They inform how you shape your plots, your heroes, your villains, and even your spear-carriers.

    There's also imagination. I write about lots of things I've not directly experienced. Especially since I write fantasy, I write about stuff I cannot experience. So what? I've got imagination! But I think this is true for every writer, regardless of genre. If I have a character whose interior life is different than mine ... well, that's good! I don't want every character to be limited to my own knowledge and personality, nor would the reader want this.

    I mentioned beliefs, so here's one. I believe we writers should trust our instincts. Other-minded people call this our Muse. YMMV (Your Myth May Vary)

    The research part comes during planning (learning new stuff to expand our range) and during editing (fixing the gaffes). During the writing, though, it's all about the feelz. I'm always going to be able to feel the emotions more readily in some scenes than in others. What counts is that I put myself not just in the scene but in the moment and inside each character, whether or not they have lines. Such things are every bit as important as metallurgy and trajectories.
     
    Caged Maiden likes this.
  19. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I really enjoy doing research if it's a subject that interests me.

    What I find is, if I'm learning a new topic, something I know next to nothing about I gt bogged down and then my head ends up exploding. I keep following links or something will get mentioned and I'll think 'what's that' and go look that thing up then end up a million miles away from where I began. I was research climate yesterday and ended up studying the old Pangea. So I think my research skills are pretty poor but I really enjoyed doing it...all day long.
     
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  20. Exactly. I end up falling into a research hole and land far from what i was originally researching...
     
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