Thursday, August 5, 2010

Research for a Children's Book Part Two

Welcome to 'Part Two' on researching a children's book.

To recap from my previous blog entry, my partner and I sat down to watch a documentary. After the documentary, my interest in the Maya of the Classic Period (250 to 900 AD) was reignited. I was inspired and knew I wanted to write a children's book about...

That was it. All I had. An inkling. A smoldering. Something lurking in my mind. But what?

I went to the library and borrowed the book the documentary was based on. I sat down and read. I didn't know if reading the book would help me write a children's book. But what did I have to lose? Hopefully I had plenty to gain.

The book I read was non-fiction and definitely for adults. My idea needed to be suitable for children.

I knew I wanted to write a children's book. So my intention was set in my mind as I read the adult non-fiction.

From the start, I enjoyed the non-fiction book. Still, I had no ideas for a children's book. I kept reading.

As the weeks went by, slowly, bit by bit, a brief plot outline came to me.
The character came first, like she appeared in my mind. Initially, I didn't know her story. She stayed with me as I kept reading the non-fiction book. Perhaps, as time went on, she realized I was serious and began to allow me snippets of her story.

At one stage, I doubted a plot would eventuate. The bits I had weren't enough. But b
y the time I finished reading the non-fiction book I was ready to start a detailed plot outline. I could scarcely believe it. How had I managed to conjure a plot idea from reading a non-fiction book? I'd had nothing, then I had a morsel, a crumb, then another piece, until finally I had a main character and a plot idea in my head.

The only way I can explain it is that the non-fiction book inspired the bits and pieces, until they came together into some form of story - my children's book. If I hadn't been reading the non-fiction book, then I wouldn't have been thinking about the subject and I wouldn't have come up with the little morsels. They were all mine, conjured from my imagination, based on my interests. Still, inspiration must come from somewhere.

Please note, I didn't begin writing until I'd finished the non-fiction book. I felt as if I needed to complete my reading, at least of this one book, before I started writing my own.

I sat down at my computer and worked on a detailed plot outline. I needed to do more research on the internet because the story required a secondary location in Mexico.

Okay, after about two days, I had my story outlined on approximately four sheets of computer paper - single-spaced. Naturally, the Maya of the Classic Period featured in my story. After all, my original inkling was inspired by a documentary that involved the Maya.

The next step was to read more about the Maya, so I could include a little of this research in my story. I didn't want to bog readers down with research material but I needed some information to give the story credibility, add to realism and, in a way, make me an authority - that is, the best person to write my book.

I've learned a lot more about the Maya than has appeared in my manuscript. I only slipped in snippets that were necessary to the story - or added to the story. The rest of my research was for me. First, because I'm interested in the subject. Second, because I find writing a story easier if I can immerse myself in the subject, theme or location.

However, as I mentioned in previous blog posts, my story doesn't just include the Maya. The story drew on several of my interests. That's what makes it a unique story - unique to me.

More on that later. For now, I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences in researching a children's book. If you'd like to read further information about my latest manuscript, please visit again.

All the best,
Robyn Opie