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Writing an accurate novel

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Amarina and Co. has just left Val Royeaux. There was much of a hold-up writing the scene because I realised, as I was writing the scene in which the Wardens are gathering supplies, that I haven't a clue what a medieval traveller might have packed. There are a lot of details that need to be researched, and I was being lazy. So it came back and bit me just as I was trying to tell them to get out of Orlais asap.

Writing is a tedious business, especially when it's not modern fiction. Modern fiction is fairly easier, because we actually live in the era and we know things without looking them up; we know what an Android is, the main phone trend is candybar, e.t.c. Not when it comes to fantasy, or historical, or even science fiction. You can't have mitochondria having a unified identity, for instance, ala Parasite Eve. Any student who has cellular biology under the belt will poke a hole that each mitochondrion should have a separate identity, and therefore there will be bickering before they are unified.

Anyway, I started writing the departure scene a week ago, and usually I would have been done by now; but I still have 6000 words or so to go. I just spent a morning researching medieval life, some of them so obscure that I had to dig out my medieval history books instead of asking nicely to google. Here were some questions that I needed answers to:

  • How fast does a horse trot? Canter? Walk? Gallop?
  • How big was the city of Paris in Middle Ages?
  • What sort of things would a medieval traveller pack?
  • How much can a horse carry?
  • How did a medieval traveller carry money? (Remember, no paper money. Imagine carrying hundred pounds in pound coins!)
  • What were the medieval units of length?
  • How did medieval people tell time?
  • What sort of food did medieval people eat on the road?
  • What were the names of medieval breads? What were they made of?
  • What was the component of "Lawyer's Ink" (also known as encre authentique)? Can it be blue?
  • Was sealing wax already around?

The horse questions were fairly easy; the 2nd question was answered with courtesy to my friend who goes by the username (not here) of Leon Lucain, who currently resides in Paris and is a Dragon Age fan. He also called J Herbin and asked my questions (many thanks to Leon). It was fairly easy to find out about medieval stationery, since my parents use sealing wax and I fountain pens anyway. The food questions were easily solved by googling. But the units of length question, "what are the coins carried in" and "what did the travellers carry" stumped me so much so that I started cursing St Bede. I know, he doesn't warrant any cursing, but I couldn't think of any medieval scholars off the top of my head. So Bede it was.

But now that's out of the way, all I need to do is stare at the medieval map of Paris and try to figure out how the Wardens would have exited the city, and where the Warden compound would be.

Trivia of the day: clocks in medieval ages were quickly reduced from ginormous machines to desktop-sizes. Some of them could even tell you the local tide, the rising time of the moon, dawn and dusk time. Pretty nifty.

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