Something about Snow-White

Dear reader,

snowwhiteDon’t worry, I won’t go into an in-depth analysis of Snow-White’s psyche. However, there’s something interesting about her and the dwarves, as well as for instance Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and more of her contemporaries that I have looked up.

At some point I incidentally came across a discussion whether or not it was legal to use Snow-White and other fairy-tale characters in a story. This because Walt Disney seems to own all of them and a host more. The interesting part in this discussion was that Snow-White herself is long out of copyright. She was brought to life by the Grimm brothers. Another thing would be the names of the dwarves. Those are invented by people from Disney studios, so using those would be a different thing.

 

The same goes for Hansl and Gretel, Cinderella and all those characters we know from the Grimm and Anderson stories (among others) so well. This may not seem a big deal, but for writers something like this can be very important. There is not much fun in being sued by a large company like Walt Disney or the likes for violating their copyrights. I am glad I discovered this. I may have to take another look at “Snow White revisited”, to be safe and certain.

Writer. Do your research.

Dear reading fiction-writer. Yes, you. Do you research?

If you write historical fiction, you probably do. You need to know the proper time-frame and era that your characters live in. You need to know about food, transport, weapons, social classes and so forth. When you write contemporary fiction, you’ll probably hound the news and modern cultural information.

When you write fantasy of Sci-Fi though… what is there to research in fantasy or science fiction? The writers that research will know. The ones that think that “those areas are open to anything so why bother to research when you can write” should think again. To keep your work credible you should decide on what laws of physics you want to bend and which ones you should adhere to in order not to create an entirely insane world or environment. Agreed, in fantasy that is not even so much a point (although it’s still important), but for science fiction you’d better. After all, the key word in there is ‘science’, and that is something you should make sure of. Stick to the science. You can work out how certain things may have evolved in the future, but to be credible I think it is necessary to work from the beginning that is our own time and technology. Rockets don’t suddenly switch from rocket fuel to water, for instance. On the other hand, they may benefit from improved solar panels, or sail on spacial storms that we can’t pick up yet at this moment.

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If you are looking for answers and you’re lost for options, have a look at the Research Monkey columns over at the Alexandria Publishing Group website. Research Monkey has posted several articles on research already, and every month there’s more to read, more to learn.

The weirdest research

Yes, dear reader, in order to create credible writing (even in fantasy) I have discovered that a writer sometimes have to delve into the weirdest research.

I once started (and until now have not ended, woe me) to write a detective story. In it someone was murdered. For this, I had to investigate all kinds of ways to murder someone, as I needed something that was out of the ordinary. I also had to look up how long an average DNA test takes, in order to create a credible part of the story around that.

For the short story “Lily and the Avenging Angel” I spent quite some time trying to find out about a poisonous frog whose poison would kill a person rather quickly. Morbid things, I agree.

Or for an older story (which I co-wrote with others, this was never published), I went through pains trying to find out details about intercontinental flights, in order to decide if someone would arrive at their destination in the morning, the evening, or perhaps in the middle of the night, and how long that flight would take.

For a story yet unseen  (it is still underway of becoming a proper book at this moment in time) I have counted the number of bridges of a particular American town that are spanning a river.

Other interesting areas of research are in languages. Sometimes I need a character from another country, so then there is the need to investigate names from that country. And perhaps there has to be the occasional word or two in that language as well, for which there are more ventures around the internet.

The last bit of research that I would like to tell you about, dear reader, is the kind that happens inside my head. There are surroundings and situations to research. Not only how to get my poor characters in there, but also how to get them out of there! And really, at times that is quite a challenge, especially when I have burnt the bridges behind them. Then the trick is to find material to build new bridges. And sometimes that takes a lot longer than looking at flight times on the internet…