I’m just getting to the end of the first draft of (working title) The Soul Catcher. Set in early medieval Yorkshire (7th century) I’m finding I need to do much more research than for my previous novel The Weave. It’s not so much the big picture stuff I’m searching for but the little details that bring a touch of reality. Details about dress, weaponry and what it could/couldn’t do, pagan and christian rites and rituals.
I read and I trawl the internet but recently I remembered an old favourite programme of mine Time Team. For those of you who may not know it – the programmes were hosted by Tony Robinson and he and a team of archeology experts undertook a 3-day dig on a whole variety of sites from different periods in history.
I’ve been spending an hour most evenings indulging in armchair research going through any of the programmes relating to the Saxons. Apart from the enduring appeal of Tony Robinson and of the experts, the programmes are a treasure trove for an historical writer.
In The Soul Catcher, one of the characters has a brooch which has a significant part to play and there on a Time Team dig they found just what I needed. What it was made of, where it was worn and so on. More importantly after it was cleaned up I could really see how beautiful it was and could tailor my own description. Living in France on a writer’s income (Ha!) it’s not very easy for me just to pop over to the British Museum and take a gander at the goodies there so the programmes have become a valued resource for me.
I’ve learned about eel traps or hives (again a feature in the story) and about details of funeral rites and the making of swords at that time.
Of course I’m not writing a factual history book so it’s important to be careful to get the balance right and not swamp the story and the characters with historical minutiae but because there is always a fantasy or supernatural element in what I write I hope I’m avoiding that trap.
So in a couple of weeks time, after I’ve finished the first draft I’ll be able to start the editing process armed with a little notebook with all sorts of eclectic snippets that I may want to introduce to bring my hot-headed hero Wulfric and his life alive for the reader.
Now back to Time Team!