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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writers, be careful choosing your rabbit holes!

We tumbled down many rabbit holes in researching and writing Obelisk Seven, and so feel we should warn writers about them. Just in case you come across a rabbit hole. In this Blog we wander into some of the rabbit holes we fell into, because rabbit holes are just plain fascinating.
The most famous rabbit hole of all time is the one Alice in Wonderland spiralled down into.
Learn from Alice: beware rabbits with pink eyes that might run past you when you are writing:
Alice and the rabbit hole
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her...
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again. The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.
Been there, done that! You think you are going in a straight line – whether researching according to a plan or writing your novel according to a plan – when an intersting bit of information beckons you on, inviting you to go down the rabbit hole in pursuit of it.

You could end up feeling like Alice:
Presently she began again. `I wonder if I shall fall right THROUGH the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think--' (she was rather glad there WAS no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) `--but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand or Australia?' (and she tried to curtsey as she spoke--fancy CURTSEYING as you're falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) `And what an ignorant little girl she'll think me for asking! No, it'll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.'
Down
            Down
                        Down
Of course, not all rabbit holes are the same. Some rabbit holes are VIRs – Very Important Rabbit holes. This is not the same as fascinating rabbit holes – most rabbit holes are fascinating. You have to choose carefully where you are going to spend your time, because – like rabbits – rabbit holes spawn young. Once you are down a rabbit hole you find yourself in a warren and can easily be lost
Your job is not exploring but researching so that you can write. So to guide you, you might draw a map of rabbit holes – put a big X through the handful you do not need to move your plot along, and select the handful of VIRs that will.
And go down that handful.
Alice's white rabbit with pink eyes
Some examples of rabbit holes we dived into are the obelisks (there are 33 but we had to settle for a smaller number to deal with in the novel, and so chose 7; the Bug rabbit hole (have you any idea how many microbes there are, and how fascinating the latest advances of microbiology are?); and the Tulli Manuscript rabbit hole (a casual mention of this papyrus while we were researching Pharaoh Thutmose III lead us to the mystery of the papyrus, the story of how it was found to the interesting character of Baron Rachewiltz and from him to Ezra Pound and on to Venice, from whether the papyrus original was a forgery to whether the copy is a forgery to the train of events – the seller and the antiquities dealer and hotel etc in Cairo, to the Air Force investigation of UFOs to the Trick Memorandum to Doubt to Fort to Thatcher ... all set out in our later posts, in case you, too, want to dive down some rabbit holes we explored).
How can you deal with unused rabbit holes?
You can use them for a sequel (if you have one), or in your website (if you have one) or else block their entrance ways with sand, and store your rabbit hole map with its X'ed out rabbit holes so that you can come back to it one day. Maybe.

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