The whirlwind book tour is over! (Though I’m still appearing here and there.)
I feel like a great weight has been lifted and I get to put my writer hat back on. And I must say, it’s pretty darn nice to blog as MYSELF once again.
So I’ve been writing a new short story about a scholar and a musician in Changan; basically tackling the very well-worn and beloved trope of the scholar attempting the imperial exams. And though the length is going to end up between 10-15K, I’ve already purchased four new research books for it: a book on Chinese erotic poetry, a dissertation on the culture of sex in Ancient China, a book of translated short stories from the Tang Dynasty, and Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds. Okay, Bridge of Birds isn’t quite research, but my copy got hopelessly water damaged and lost in the move.
I asked myself, is it necessary to buy so many books for such a short story? Especially when I already have a decent reference library on Tang Dynasty culture, not to mention Google books and other references at my fingertips?
I’ve decided that it’s absolutely necessary!
I’m so unimaginative, I need research books to feed my brain. This is why I will never make any money writing. I have to consume so many orchids to distill them down into a concentrated vanilla extract.
BUT, I am collecting more interesting tidbits of trivia. For instance, the current book I’m reading, The Dragon King’s Daughter, is a collection of short stories. The foreword posits that the culture of the short story blossomed in the Tang Dynasty in large part to the exam culture. Students would often present essays and short writings to the official examiners ahead of time to gain favor. Poetry and writing were often given as gifts, even as payment occasionally. Talk about the value of the written word!
I was jumping up and down when I read that because I have my hero working on an essay that he needs to turn in as an assignment before he can take the exams. I didn’t know if this was true to the culture or not, but I figured, heck, academia can’t be ALL that different back then. Then sure enough, this historical tidbit ties in perfectly to my plot, pulling it even tighter.
And then there’s the whole cyclical pattern of things. The short story maturing as a form in the Tang Dynasty exam culture — and now I’m writing a short story featuring the exam culture. Doesn’t it all just feel right?
P.S. Editing this post to see if it will post onto Facebook…Wish me luck.