Research - Making It Real

One of the most important tasks in developing a novel, especially a novel that is based on reality, is research. It may be something as simple as figuring out how long it takes to walk from the bus stop on your character’s street to their house; or as complex as working out if the AI breakthrough in your story that lets us communicate with aliens has some factual basis.


Writer tip: That’s how you make sci-fi believable. People have no problem believing stories about wormholes because they are theoretically possible. 


We have it easy these days because of the Internet. However, you should be careful about the sources of your information. Wikipedia sounds great, but remember, anyone who logs on can edit it and they don’t always put the right info in or leave references. 


For Past Remembrance, we could use our own experiences working on archaeological sites in the UAE to help tell the story. But we didn’t know everything and had to learn about things like recent upgrades in tech. We also did a deep dive into the history and archaeology of Sir Bani Yas island. Check out our page on the topic if you would like to know more about it.


Both of us learned how to research many years ago when we were archaeology students. However, for the last thirty years, Michele has worked with various Departments of Culture and Heritage throughout the UAE and published a variety of academic papers and books (whispers: she’s actually Dr Michele Ziolkowski). Therefore, Michele was the lead researcher for Past Remembrance, especially since she lives in the UAE, has visited the excavations on Sir Bani Yas, and knows many of the people involved. 


Michele made a variety of day trips to gather information and images of local heritage. For instance, she visited a maritime heritage festival in Abu Dhabi and took pictures and video of many of the cultural aspects we describe in Past Remembrance. Many of the images in the Glossary and Resources pages of this website use Michele’s photos and videos.


On another occasion, Michele gathered information on songs sung by local fishermen while they were working from someone who works with local folk music.


We also did some regular online research. For instance, some of our characters say prayers used by the Church of the East, or in Hindu beliefs, so we needed to know which ones were appropriate for our 1,300-year-old characters to use. In addition, traditional Gujarati clothing and jewellery also need researching, as well as names for the trader characters. When we started writing, we were uncertain what an ancient trading vessel travelling from Gujarat to Bandar Abbas would have looked like or how craftsmen constructed it. That became quite an interesting research adventure all of its own!


Since we had a reasonably academic topic, we made use of a variety of main online sources of information:

  • JSTOR.

All three have free basic versions that give limited access, either to what you can see or to how much you can download at a time.


You can see some of the other specific resources we used in the Archaeology and Teacher Resources pages of the website.


If you are interested in writing, we know research can be time consuming and it sometimes feels like wading through syrup. It is, however, vital to a well-written story. Some people might get frustrated if they can’t find the info they need immediately and decide to make it up, hoping for the best. But think of it this way: there will be at least one person out there who reads your story who will know the information and realise you winged it. That doesn’t feel very good.

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©2023 - 2024 Katia Davis | Michele Ziolkowski - Safia's Archaeological Adventures.
This website uses British English.
Past Remembrance cover design, illustration, and promotional banners/graphics by Holly Dunn of Holly Dunn Design.
Resource illustrations as stated.
Website title graphics via subscription user license - and includes some AI elements.
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