Monday, October 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo Prep: Research

A thing I learned last year from writing The Cold Distance is that the more I know about the things I'm writing about the harder it is to invent things about them. So the bigger lesson than that is simply to not know too much about a given subject.

You see, once I know a lot about something I can't help but be faithful to it. In the case of the upcoming novel, I need to know some about ghost towns and city-states and a little more about memory and how it works. I'm not giving away anything about the novel by listing these things because - as always - the story's about more than just that. Those are just details.

Let's explore a bit about memory, shall we?

What makes an individual remember something and what happens when a number of individuals who remember the same thing (albeit slightly differently to account for point of view) suddenly forget the same thing? Perhaps it's the idea that a memory shared is dangerous to all and something is trying to protect the constituents of the population center. If memory is embedded in our brains, then we know it can be overridden by a flood of memories surrounding it; when the individual becomes part of a mob.

Are there memories embedded in cities? Ever wandered through a ghost town or even a deserted, lonely stretch of your city and wondered what ghosts are wandering there? I don't think that kind of imagination is limited to people who are innately creative. People who are sensitive to so-called supernatural phenomena will see things the rest of us can't. Whether you choose to believe mediums can speak with the dead, I'm convinced that some can tap into the installed memories of a particular location.

Now the medium may or may not be for real, but certainly they are sensitive enough to read the flesh and blood people accompanying them. We've all seen the cold read done on TV shows like Leverage, right? It's a learned skill. So why couldn't doing a cold read on room looking for memories happen? I've read somewhere that anything can be embedded in a physical structure and by that I mean anything that affects our senses. Certainly smell can be: you've been in a place where the odor of smoke or sweat or cat pee is pervasive, I bet. How about tastes? Sight is easy, too. Sounds? What about tactile things? Can they be locked into a physical location?

Maybe these memories are implicit rather than explicit. Maybe our minds fill in the blanks with our own expectations and experiences in order to better process the data coming in.

Do you think cities do the same things? Are they masculine or feminine or both?

This is what I'm thinking about now that the book is out working the streets and I'm getting ready to write a new one that is tangentially related. I want to challenge myself to be daring and to write something that's just a little bit beyond me. I need to learn enough to be dangerous with a subject, to try and see which path is the best to explore.

I need to remember what it was that had me so excited last year, that enabled me to finish my longest and perhaps best-written work. I need those memories.