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The Plight of Refugees and Research for Writing

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Research for a writer can be a strange thing. The authors of historical or ‘factually based’ fiction have both an advantage and disadvantage compared to fantasy and sci-fi authors. Although there is the chance to get actual, hands-on information about setting and place, there’s also a risk that you can get it wrong, so totally wrong – and your readers will know.

For me, with Descent: Diaspora, it’s been a weird mix; I can’t research my imaginary worlds, but the experience of refugees? Hence the last three months away, incorporating my education on the plight of refugees and research for writing.

I can’t give too much detail, unfortunately. Most of what I did, saw and experienced was strictly on the basis that (for a change) I’d keep my big mouth shut about who, when, where, what and why. OK, so a few posts on Twitter (or X, or Musk’s Folly, whatever it’s called today) had my general location, but that was fine. In the end, half my time was spent recuperating from the other half of my time which was spent with, or nearly being, a displaced person in places across Europe and the Middle East. Recuperating? Why? An example (fictitious of course, believe me). Took me a few days to get my heart back where it belonged after riding in the back of a refrigerated truck in Brittany late one night with a few dozen African acquaintances; understand now?

Anyway. So what did this give me (apart from a major reality check and confirmation of my white, middle class, privileged lifestyle) as an author? A gut feel, a ‘balls to bones insight’ into what those people go through and face, and what it does to them, all of which will find its way subtly and carefully into the texture of Descent: Diaspora.

Are you disappointed with this? Think it’s a cop-out or perhaps too little return? Think perhaps I should simply change some names and places and weave them into the plot lines? No, and no again. To me writing is, to a large degree, an outcome of a myriad of thoughts, impressions and inputs that filter through the frame of plot and prose. Without these last three months Diaspora would only be a faint reflection of what I hope it can be; with them, the underlying framework is strong enough to carry the story as I wish it to be.

One lesson I can share is the disaster I faced on my return. My laptop decided life itself wasn’t precious and died a slow, lingering death while I was away. Apparently HP decided in their wisdom that the battery will run down quickly and, when being fully discharged, will never be able to be recharged again – as a safety measure. To cap it off somehow the hard drive got corrupted so every single byte was ruined. My sanity saved by two 32GB flash drives. I dodged a bullet, lesson learned.

Never, never leave your desk for a day without backing up. Thank heavens I did before I left.

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