“Did Queen Berengaria and Queen Joan (or Joanna as she’s sometime referred to) depart Cyprus for Acre on the same galley as King Richard?”¹
You’re dying to know, right? Isn’t everyone? Ah, the joys of historical research!
Donna Gillespie at Pen in Hand writes “Research helps you shape your story, and on a good day it can even suggest a nifty plot complication, fully formed, little assembly required.” Yes, exactly! That’s what I look for while trying to work out the plot lines for my novella Battle Scars.
All I’d planned to do was make reference to a cool minor character teaching a few card tricks to Berengaria, who then bested her husband, the Lionheart. But if they weren’t all on the same boat, my bit of comic relief wouldn’t work – at least not in that particular spot in the story.
Hey, average Joe/Joanna: would you care? would you even know if I’d gotten the history wrong?
On the other hand, the Third Crusade aficionado might close the book on me – literally – if I messed with the historical record.
It’s important to me to get it right. Or, to do the best I can to track down the little details to keep my fiction consistent with actual events of the time. I do love the research. I was always the kid who saw something on television or in a movie or a book and had to go look up more information about it in the old World Book Encyclopedia or at the library.
I’m using Scrivener for this novella. It has some fantastic tools: a “binder” to upload research notes, images, or other documents, a document notes feature and synopsis for each scene or chapter. I have 15 scenes storyboarded in my rough draft for part 2 of the novella, which covers June 1191 through October 1192. Each scene has a corresponding notes section highlighting many of the actual events of a particular day or month. This allows me to keep the facts straight while I weave my fiction around them. I can look for opportunities: where will my next scene take place? At the Battle of Arsuf? In Jaffa (or Joppa – what spellling should I use?), in Beit Nuba?
My list of reference materials continues to grow. Nicholson’s Chronicle of the Third Crusade provides the basis of my research material. It’s a translation from an official chronicler, reporting events while accompanying Richard’s army. Richard the Lionheart: the Mighty Crusader by David Miller provides some nice details, and “Battle of Arsuf: Climatic clash of cross and crescent,” an article by Mark L. Evans in the journal Military History analyzes the strategies of Richard and Saladin. I’d mentioned a few other books on my reference pile in earlier posts here and here. And I haven’t even had a chance to check out many of these:
How do you keep track of your research notes?
Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.
Char also writes science fiction. Echoes of the Storm was published in July 2020.
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