Writing and Research: When in Doubt, Twist Things About

When you have lost your way, either in your writing or researching, twist things around, and perhaps it will help you find what you are seeking.

For example, I had to write a story for Second Helpings, the Second Wind Publishing holiday short story and recipe anthology. (Which, incidentally, has now been published. Hint. Hint.) My idea was to tell the story of a woman with an unromantic and inattentive husband. To show her discontent, she kept “poisoning” him by making his favorite fat and sugar-laden chocolate chip cookies. She had an affair with a man who seldom had time for her, and finding that she was just as unhappy, she decided to stay with the man who was present in her life. She broke off the affair, and at the end, she fed her husband cookies made with applesauce and honey instead of butter and sugar to show her change of heart. It was a nice story, but nothing special until I twisted it around and gave her live-in boyfriend the affair. (Since I was changing things, I demoted the husband to boyfriend — I didn’t want to have to deal with a possible divorce.) And then the story took off.

I always knew twisting things around in writing was a good idea, but research? Apparently twisting works for that, too. I’d spent a couple of days researching “thinking caps” for yesterday’s post, and wasn’t getting anywhere. The term only goes back a couple of hundred years (at least in print), though the term “considering cap” goes back four hundred years (again, in print).

I knew the term had to be older than that, mostly because of a gut feeling that there had actually been such things as “thinking caps” and that the term hadn’t always been rhetorical. So I got to thinking about the opposite of thinking caps, which are dunce caps, and wouldn’t you know — there was the answer I was seeking. As I said yesterday, originally dunce caps were thinking caps. The apex represented knowledge, and that knowledge was funneled through the cap to the brain. Although dunce caps stemmed from the 1200s, they were based on wizard’s caps, and went so far back into the mists of time, that there is no way to ever trace the origin.

It gave me a thrill when I realized that my intuition about the relationship between dunce caps and thinking cap was correct. Now, when I can’t find the answer I want, I will look at the opposite.

So, when in doubt, twist things about.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

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4 Responses to “Writing and Research: When in Doubt, Twist Things About”

  1. dellanioakes Says:

    Wow, I didn’t know that about thinking caps and dunce caps. How funny! I can’t wait to read your story, Pat. I bet it’s great!

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Sounds like a pretty good idea, if you ask me.


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