All That and a Tin of Butter Cookies

Yogurt is curdling away in the yogurtmaker (or whatever it is that it’s supposed to be doing), I am on my third uninterrupted cup of coffee, the laundry is sloshing away, and I’m listening to this and this as I write:

It’s early on in the semester, so I don’t have a ton of grading hanging over my head, and while I do have to get my mom a birthday present sometime today, I know where I’m going (Twee, duh!) and what I’m getting her (earrings). My daughter is reenacting some epic fairy story and is totally ignoring me as she jumps around and refers to her Pixie Hollow magazine and pretends she is her favorite fairy (Iridessa, a light fairy). I managed to be the early bird this morning and snag Nesbø’s The Leopard for my Kindle at the library online– and I’ve been waiting FOREVER  weeks for The Boy in the Suitcase to get deleted from someone else’s Kindle so it could reappear magically on mine, and it finally did.

Ah, I am liking this morning very much!

I don’t even feel superpressured to write, since I know The Babyhead will be returning to school Tuesday, and I’ll have plenty of uninterrupted time then.

So, what is the fly in the ointment? Well, it is that I’ve hit that point in my book where I wonder if everything I’m doing is wrong. Those fly wings are buzzing about, helplessly. Bzzzt! It’s very annoying, and it’s the kind of sound you can’t really tune out. I could try to ignore it, though, and let it slowly drive me batshit crazy. Instead, I’m going to take the tin of ointment outside, flick the fly out, and then go back inside with my flyless ointment.

That’s right, I’m going to plug ahead. My gut is telling me to pause and research, but I’ve been down that road before. Let’s call it the Danish Incident of 2009.

In 2009 I was writing either a short story or a novel-start. I’m not sure which. And it never progressed further than 30 pages because I convinced myself that if I wanted a post-WWII vet from another country I’d have to do some research. Well, I wasn’t totally off. A smidgen of research was helpful, so that I didn’t come off as a total idiot.  With an hour or two’s worth of footwork (Fingerwork, because it was typing? No, that sounds lewd.) I figured out that Denmark was the place I needed the character to be from.

Then I took it too far. For some reason, I wanted the character to have a slight accent. I could have avoided a whole writing-episode of my life if I’d just decided that day to have the character be completely fluent. What would a slight Danish accent sound like? What did regular old Danish sound like?

Here is where I think I would make either an excellent research librarian OR an excellent stalker. Probably both. Suddenly, I was a girl obsessed.

I got a tiny Danish dictionary from Langenscheidt, along with a little book about Danish culture and mannerisms. The latter was helpful, but the dictionary was nearly useless since a good chunk of it had been misprinted and merely repeated a big portion of the English to Danish side, which was exactly the side I didn’t want.

Then I thought, hey, why don’t I listen to Danish instead? So I got some language tapes– though they’re language CDs, really. A whole set. I now know how to introduce myself, agree to things, and find somebody at a train station. But the way people enunciate on language tapes (CDs! I mean CDs!) is not the way they enunciate in real life.

How else could I listen the Danish language, then? Movies are great, and I’m a huge fan of all things Dogme, but I couldn’t really play a film as I wrote. I remembered my opera days, and how Die Zauberflöte helped me with German. Why hadn’t I thought of that in the first place? The Raveonettes are Danish, but don’t sing in Danish. Same thing with Mew. Trentemøller has the little slashy thing through his O, but his singers do their thing in English. Then I found, in the RIYL section under Trentemøller, Mikael Simpson’s new album at the time, and that was the end of that. There were some awfully helpful interviews on YouTube, too, where someone was asking him about classical music’s influence on his work. But this was long after I’d set the project aside for a “breather.” You don’t really get questions like that in the US, I think, but anyway hearing the language spoken conversationally was helpful, if a bit late for me. Did it hurt that he likes Spiritulaized, My Bloody Valentine, and has a hankering for vinyl, and has the misfortune of being quite cute? Nope. And actually, even his Facebook page was helpful, because while he knows English, there are certain quirks that were exactly the sort of thing I was looking for! Score one for research! Maybe score two? I’m not sure about how my scoring system works.

Buy it, even if you don't know what he's singing about! You won't regret it.

The drawback? This took a shit-ton of time, and I abandoned the project. All because I decided for some random reason on Denmark and a slight accent. Sigh. Never again! This time, research AFTER the bulk of the thing is written, and then I can rewrite.

Learn from my mistake.

Of course, it wasn’t all a loss, since I did discover a bunch of music I really like. I mean, did you know Denmark had such a healthy music scene? Raveonettes, Trentemøller, Mikael Simpson, Sleep Party People, Mew? Now that I think about it, perhaps my research tangent was worthwhile after all. I mean, I can always revisit that story, now that I have the information that I needed so long ago.

But still, even with the eventual benefits: Write First, Research Later.

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