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If you want to put horses in your fic...

...take a look at this post by Sue Bolich, SF author entitled "Horses in Fiction: The Group Ride." It's a funny (and accurate) piece covering things you should consider -- or maybe add to your story -- when you have a bunch of people on horseback who meet up on the road. For example:

The traditional warning for a kicker is a red ribbon tied to its tail, but unless you are writing in a modern setting I can't see using this as a warning to the rest of your group. For plot purposes it is far more fun to discover this trait without warning..."

Which brings me to one of my pet peeves in writing: people who don't do their research. If you're writing straight magic, where people can just conjure dinner out of thin air or start a fire by saying "Ignito!" then it doesn't much matter if your characters remembered to bring flint and tinder in their packs. But intelligent readers are going to demand a bit more of you. If your characters travel from Point A to Point B three hundred miles away on foot, the intelligent reader will wonder how they did it in a week. (Even the Roman legions, famous for their ability to get from here to there and be lively enough to whup some Visigoth butt upon arrival, only did about 25-35 miles a day.) This is probably why so much writing advice consists of "write what you know" -- you're less likely to come a cropper over small details if you stick to a subject you've got down pat. Which is not to say you can't write something you don't know, just that if you choose to do so you'd better be willing to do some research so you don't have mushrooms growing on mountaintops or kangaroo rats in the jungle.

In fanfic, of course, you have to worry not only about basic physics and horse psychology but also canon (unless you're one of those people who couldn't give a rat's ass about canon, in which case more power to you), because if you venture into a fandom you don't know well, sure as Spock's ears are pointy somebody who knows it inside out will point out that pon farr only comes once every SEVEN years.

So, note to self: Don't forget to do your research. The marching speed of the Roman army is only a Google search away!



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Mar. 17th, 2012 05:38 am (UTC)
Heee! This is so true! Google is my friend, that is my mantra. Researching things is fun. I always end up doing some kind of research. I like to put real places in my fics. So, sometime I end up spending hours (literally) perusing maps of places trying to find the perfect place for Snape to have settled or Hermione to be living.

Mar. 17th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
I agree! For me, nailing the details is half the fun and I'm *much* more satisfied with a story if I know I got even the little bits right. It's like cleaning your house for company: they might never look under the bed or in the closets, but you just feel better knowing you did the job right, even if you're the only one who knows it :)
Mar. 17th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
Amen to that. I didn't know the difference between the molecular structures of hemotoxins versus necrotoxins in snake venom, or the viability of intercontinental apparition, or the intricacies of weight divisions in women's boxing, or the nature of traditional Welsh wedding gifts before I researched my fanfic. But I'm glad I know now. And I consider a badly-researched work an infuriating waste of time. Man, I hate loose ends.

Proud to say I'm on a first-name basis with my librarians.

The link to the equine behaviour blogger is fantastic, btw. :)
Mar. 17th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
Wow, necrotoxins to women's boxing -- that's quite a range of factoids to verify! Go librarians :) Glad you liked the blog, I enjoy her posts very much. She knows whereof she speaks, and not just about horses.
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