Dangerous research

I’m writing an 18th-century romp at the moment, and I’m finding that the only thing more fun than writing sex-in-a-chemise is researching chemises (and other things). Granted, research has a way of sucking up my time, but it’s all for a purpose, right? The dishes can wait: I must know about morganatic marriages and antique iron strongboxes right now.

The funnest part so far has been in taste-testing all those drinks of the day: port, claret, Madeira, sherry. I thought about trying to get my hands on some laudanum, just to experience the loopiness for myself, but el hubby convinced me that I might get into some legal trouble. Boo.

At any rate, fun as it might be, there is also a danger in researching, and in writing in general: what if I get it wrong? I’ve seen so many decent books heckled over nitpicks: chocolate and tomatoes in pre-Colombian Europe, Regency ladies wearing knickers, inaccurate modern police procedure, incorrect forms of address for titled folks. Can a book recover from such a flaw? Can a writer move past a humiliation like having her red-shirt tertiary character bleed out from a paper cut or allowing her hero to hack an alien computer with a wholly inconceiveable operating system based on bubbles? *wibble*

Personally, as a reader, some of my favorite authors play a little fast and loose with the facts, and I don’t mind one bit. It’s their stories, their characters, that draw me in, and I’m willing to forgive them a lot of research oopsing. As a writer, though, I guess I’m not comfortable enough with my own skills yet to cut myself the same slack.

And the tension – as well as the pile of reference books – mounts. Think I need an absinthe and a bubble bath to get my muse back on track. Only, absinthe is 19th c. Noooo! Very well, will apply head to desk instead.

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This post written for and cross-posted to Romance Writers Behaving Badly.