Thanks to Michele Emrath for guest blogging for me today! Michele is a writer, freelance news producer, wife, and mother and hails from my home state of North Carolina. Her blog is http://southerncitymysteries.blogspot.com/.
These are sources we cannot imagine living without. But they haven't always been around, and people have been writing magnificent manuscripts for thousands of years.
Every generation thinks they are the first to discover something great. Did the Beat poets discover poetry? Did Casanova discover love? Did the Woodstock generation discover sex? Did Al Gore discover the Internet?
The truth is: writing came long before us and research predates our very modern ways. Stories predate the written word. So what would it be like to write a book without the benefit of electronic resources?
If I am stuck on a word, I speedily key in thesaurus.com and have a synonym within seconds.
If I need to know what type of weapons SWAT officers use in a meth house takedown situation, I peel open my well-worn copy of Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland. If I need to parse out some architecture facts I grab my ever-handy cell phone and call my father, Michael Hindman.
And the technology keeps coming. I mentioned e-books at the top of this blog. Personally, I like the smell of the glue and the feel of the pages. I like the color and myriad fonts of spines lining my bookshelves. But I see the future and it has the name Kindle. Downloading books at the speed of web-surfing! Forgoing the long trip to B&N or the local Indie and having a new read minutes after finishing the old one. (Or is this, too, naive? Will it be seconds?) Saving trees and money while doing it. And upping the amount of research books we can afford.
But is it all necessary?
At a recent writers conference I met an author who says she has never been to a single location about which she writes. She uses the Internet and various contacts gained through the Internet to gather her facts. This wouldn't work for me: I am an emotions-based person. I have to feel it to write it. I have to experience the place to describe it to my readers. Besides, why would I write about Paris and not get the benefit of travelling there?
Furthermore, I think a lot is lost in the use of electronic media. I am an electronic media journalist by trade. I am very aware of its benefits, but I see books as emotional and as art. They should be as much labors of the heart for the writer as for the reader, and that cannot be done through a machine.
Several years ago my sister gave me a beautiful coffee table book, New York Interiors. It is filled with magnetic portraits of just that: modern lofts juxtaposed beside Louis XIV palace apartments (a la Trump). On page 108 begins a portrait essay on David McDermott and Peter McGough. The artists share a Brooklyn home and a lifestyle that they have chosen to set back about one hundred years. They walk everywhere they can, or, on rare occasion, drive their Model-T Ford. In their art they use original cameras and costumes. And in their home (a former bank built in 1896), they reject modern amenities like television and CD players.
Agatha Christie. Daphne du Maurier. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Giovanni Boccaccio. Homer.
They all did it. Can we?
Postscript: I referenced thesaurus.com five times while writing this post.