Friday, January 18, 2013
Is it research, or going down a bunny trail? What if the bunny trail leads me into conviction?
When I was young, sometimes I tried to follow literal bunny trails, little paths threaded through long grass almost always leading deep into a thicket of multi-floral ("wild") roses. It usually took longer to get untangled and out of the sticker bushes than it did to get in, leaving me with scratches, torn clothes and no bunnies.
So I have to wonder about my research sometimes. Internet bunny trails are just a link away. I don't have to worry about thorns, torn clothes or chiggers, but want to make the most of my time.
While looking for background on Indiana and the Civil War, I have collected several reference books, read on-line sources, leafed through old family letters, and visited re-enactments and Conner Prairie. I keep going back to some favorite sources, especially ones about farming with horses, and of course, hoopskirts, even Victorian jewelry and hair art.
Some of my research nuggets are thought-provoking, though. Uncomfortably so at times.
My WIP has a thread about Spiritualism, a belief that souls of the departed linger near loved ones and can communicate with them. It was a serious movement in the 1800s.
As a Christian, I have all kinds of objections to that, but my characters have to work towards those conclusions. Using the "Nineteenth Century in Print" collection of periodicals from American Memory Project, I found many articles about Spiritualism from the 1800s.
I also wandered to Beliefnet, a site dedicated to spirital life. Several articles covered modern Spiritualism. Some of its beliefs and practices have been renamed and merged into the New Age movement.
What surprised and saddened me was a survey on that site about beliefs about souls of the departed. While most Christians and Jews believed in an afterlife, so did the Wiccans.
Matter of fact, when the survey asked whether the living could contact the dead, the Wiccans were most likely to believe that was true and to report having such experiences. At the other extreme were atheists, who believe it's all over at death.
As a Christian from a very grounded Midwestern farm family I find both extremes troubling. How do we as Christians share hope with such lost people? So lost that they have not a clue where they are or where they are going? How should I deal with someone with surprising beliefs?
I think fiction -- maybe not my historical romances written for other Church Ladies -- from some gifted writers could work through the thorny hedges around the hearts of such lost people.