Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writer's Secret Joy: Research

One of the real joys of writing is the research. Sometimes it can slow us down when we need to check and recheck mundane points to be sure we haven’t made an error. But for the most part, writers choose settings, historical periods, and concepts that intrigue them so that researching a book winds up being really fun.

When I wrote historical romance, I always chose the time periods that appealed to me. I am fascinated by all things medieval and could have gladly spent decades researching castles, gowns, and court intrigue. These days, as I write more contemporary stories, I still choose to set the books in places and within professional realms that interest me. Never has this been more true than for my current release, The Magnate’s Mail-Order Bride, set in the world of professional dance.

What beauty and grace! There is so much talent, work and fierce competitiveness here. And on occasion, a sort of “court intrigue” all its own. Take for example the scandal in the Bolshoi Ballet four years ago when a bitter soloist dancer conspired in an attack on the ballet’s artistic director. The director lost most sight in one eye when acid was thrown in his face by an assailant in dark parking lot. Those stories are, of course, well outside the norm for dance. But they hint at the passionate commitment and emotion behind the most successful companies.

I watched one beautiful dance clip after another on You Tube for the sake of breathing life into my
The Rose Adagio
heroine, Sofia Koslov. I studied the differences between ballet schools and dancing styles, as well as the way individual dances impose their artistic interpretation on famous dances. I spent half a day watching the most famous ballerinas in the world perform the Rose Adagio- Aurora’s entrance dance in Sleeping Beauty. There are commentaries on the performances too, so you can learn why each is unique or particularly talented. I was captivated!

Another important facet for the book was discovering what a dancer’s day to day life is like. For this, I was very grateful for the video content on the New York City Ballet’s website. In addition to dance clips and rehearsal clips, there are snippets of dancers talking about their tours, pre-show rituals, falls, aspirations and much more. If you visit, just click on some of the individual dancer names and look for their “Screen Test” video. Very fun.

But sooner or later, the research must come to an end and all the new knowledge needs to funnel into a book. It’s difficult to turn off the information-gathering quest, but when we begin to use it to bring to life the world we’ve learned about, it becomes really rewarding. With any luck, the writer brings to life the research for the reader in a newly enjoyable way.

***What’s your favorite dance scene in a movie? I’m partial to Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen’s “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” in White Christmas! Share yours on the blog and I’ll give one random poster an advance copy of my upcoming Harlequin Desire, His Accidental Heir


Laney4 said...

That's like naming your favorite child!
I immediately thought of that scene with Debbie Reynolds, Danny Kaye, and Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain where they flop down the couch while dancing.
THEN I thought of Kurt Browning skating to a similar rain-filled street like Gene Kelly danced on when filming Singin' in the Rain (although his was a skating special rather than a movie).
Next thing I knew, I visualized Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey at the end of Dirty Dancing.
Oh! How about Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in Easter Parade? Always an Easter favorite on television ...
... and Judy Garland dancing down the Yellow Brick Road with her friends in The Wizard of Oz!
Oh, the memories.... Thanks for that!

dstoutholcomb said...

I love all the great Hollywood musicals, but this tango with Colin Firth is nice:


dstoutholcomb said...

this might be better:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a lot of people would say the scene from Dirty Dancing which yeah, who wouldn't love Swayzee? I'm gonna go way back to Shirley Temple! She was so little and talented. She could tap dance her way across the screen with out batting an eye.Can you even imagine dancing, singing , and remembering lines when you haven't hardly started school? I know I sure can't! I can barely slow dance with out stepping on Doug's toes and he on mine!!! Pam H.

Mary Preston said...

There is a scene in WHITE NIGHTS with Mikhail Baryshnikov. It's raw and breathtaking.

Joanne Rock said...

Mary Preston, I just went back and rewatched that scene... the man is riveting!!! And how fun to see Helen Mirren in the film. I'd forgotten she was in this one.

Joanne Rock said...

Congratulations Laney!! You're my winner this time! I'm going to email you privately, but I've got a copy of HIS ACCIDENTAL HEIR heading your way! Thank you all for visiting the blog and taking time to visit with me. Wishing everyone a very Happy Mother's Day!