The adage “write what you know” isn’t always possible, especially in speculative fiction, though drawing on what you do know lends invaluable veracity to your work. (Case in point, Angel’s stint as a social worker gives her a unique perspective on troubled teens. It made for a believable premise in Vigilant, her super-hero novel.)
I prefer the lesser known phrase, “research the hell out of what you don’t know so you don’t look like an ass.” (I’m talking to you, Dan Brown.)
In Odin’s Murder, (Less than two weeks. Holy shit, Batman…) we have a scene where Faye, our resident rune translator and wearer of Dubious Sweaters, recites a “lost” Norse poem. Here’s the opening:
Father Odin of many names
Who we call the Weather-Master
Kept ravens as his eyes,
To whisper the doings of men
While riding on his shoulder.
(It goes on a bit.) Now, I am not an archeologist or an expert of Scandinavian early literature, but I did study up hard on not just the myths, but also the cadence and phrasing of the ancient poetry. The Icelandic eddas and Norse sagas have a specific rhythm and weight to the words. We didn’t want Faye’s recitation to sound like a Shakespearean sonnet; she’s the expert at this stuff, she should know better. And as a reader, there’s nothing that wrenches you out of a story and breaks trust with your author as having a novel’s “expert” be wrong or just sound silly. (Still talking to you, Dan Brown.)
(Yes, I might have flung a book across the room last night.)
Love the hat, dude.