Writing requires research. The adage ‘write what you know’ holds very true but I agree with those who say that, in this day and age when information is so easy to find, the adage ‘know what you write’ is truer.
It is perfectly possible to write short stories, articles and novels without any research. The human condition is universal and we don’t need to Google to know the contents of our own hearts and souls. However, if our protagonists visit Paris, go ice-climbing, drink sirop de cassis or fly to Titan, we either need to have done those things ourselves or research them.
One of the interesting things about writing collaboratively is that we don’t always know what we need to research until our writing partner presents us with the synopsis for the next chapter. For this novel, we’ve done some shared research, mostly on the geography and establishments in Sutton Coldfield. Heide has been required to research foodie menus, Apple Geniuses and sex dolls. Myself, I’ve researched heavy metal lyrics, old hymns and now… the rules for being a perfect chivalrous gentleman. One of our characters, Nerys, is looking for the perfect gentleman and (for reasons I haven’t yet properly explained to myself) holds the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as the paragon of all things gentlemanly.
|David Suchet as Poirot|
But what do I know about being a gentleman? I hold doors open for women (and men). I try to avoid punching people in the face. I don’t belch loudly in public. What else is there?
Thank goodness for the internet. Fifteen minutes of trawling gives me these starters.
1. Help a lady put on her coat (apparently women can’t do this themselves)
2. Help a lady draw in her chair at the dining table (nor this)
3. Stand up when a lady enters or exits the room.
4. Offer up your seat to a lady if there isn’t one available
5. Take your hat off indoors (not sure if this means I must wear a hat outdoors)
6. Never let others see you looking at your watch.
7. Practice good grooming and hygiene.
8. Don’t swear.
9. Buy more than one pair of shoes.
10. Carry a handkerchief (ooh, I do that one)
11. Don’t tuck your napkin into your collar.
12. Share your umbrella.
13. Don’t drink to excess. At least in public.
14. At the dinner table, talk to those either side of you, not across from you.
15. Never remove your tie when in company
16. Let your social superiors address you first (!)
But my favourite, purely because of the way it is worded, is from www.askmen.com which says:
17. Always carry a woman’s packages.
I can imagine how Clovenhoof might misinterpret that!
But what other rules of gentlemanly behaviour have I missed?