Research: An Ongoing Process

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Writing a book of historical fiction obviously requires quite a bit of research which I enjoy, but can also find challenging. I know some writers feel they should do all their research before they put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Of course, you need to do some research to make sure you have your timeline in decent order, but because I have characters that tend to show up unannounced or do things I wasn’t expecting, research is an ongoing process for me. To give you more of an idea of what I have been writing about, I decided to share a few of those areas of research.

archery-847876__340In one case, the brothers (sons of David) are practicing their archery, and all I know about archery is that it requires a bow, some arrows, and, hopefully, some targets. I know these young men didn’t run down to their local sporting goods stores for their equipment, so where did they get it? How did they make it? And how far advanced would they have been at this time? Was archery even a thing for the sons of David? (I know they must have learned to use a sling at some point. Surely, their father taught them that!)

In another scene, I picture Bathsheba coming into the palace garden, a small dog trotting at her side. Wait a minute! Did the Israelites have dogs as pets? Did they even have dogs at all? (They didn’t, but I cleverly worked around that).

Much of my book revolves around horses and chariots. This was not in my original game plan, and not knowing much about either, I’ve had to work at learning more about these two subjects. Having the internet is a wonderful thing for both finding the exact information you need or pointing you to books and articles that can deepen your understanding.

After writing most of my manuscript, I found a book, The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariotry 20170210_105239in Monarchic Israel (Ninth-Eighth Centuries B.C.E.).  At first, I read most of this book online, but was eventually able to find it at a reasonable “used” price (looks brand-new). After reading through several chapters, I needed to go back and change quite a bit of what I had written and was also able to add interesting details about the way horses were trained and first introduced to Israel. I have found this book helpful on several levels and plan to give you a more comprehensive review in the future.

Then there is that trip to Egypt Solomon takes with two of his brothers. Not in my original outline, but it has been interesting to do some studying in that area.

Knowing more about the people and the way they lived helps me to better understand Bible characters who are familiar, yet can seem so distant. Of course, not every detail I uncover will end up in the finished manuscript (or it would be a few thousand pages), but every one that does enhances the story and makes the characters come alive, both for myself and my future readers.

You don’t need to be writing a book to do research. Every time you “google” something, you’re doing some type of research. What about you? What are the kinds of information you enjoy finding? Does it help you on your job? Your personal Bible study? Or are there certain areas (science, history, etc.) that you just enjoy learning about?

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The Ophel Inscription–Writing from the time of King David

Half the fun of writing historical fiction is the research. Sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for (or scholars disagree on certain findings) and that can be frustrating, but more often I run across “fun facts” that I had not even considered (which makes it sound like most of my research is serendipitous and maybe it is). I may not always be able to add these “fun facts” or details to my story, but learning more about the culture of my characters helps me, as the author, to know my characters in a more rounded way.

As most of you know, I’m writing a story about Solomon during the time of King David, so I was intrigued when I ran across an article concerning a find in 2012 by Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar. From the Ophel mound between the Temple Mount and the old city of David, a pottery shard was found containing seven letters. Now known as the Ophel Inscription, there is still quite a bit of debate about those letters and what it all means, but there are those who have concluded that the letters are Hebrew, making the find highly significant concerning the kingdoms of David and Solomon.

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Hebrew letters on a 3,000 year old pot gives credence, not only to the existence of King David living in Jerusalem at that time, but also suggests that the written language was not just for the rich and their rulers.

I have no problem believing the Bible concerning the existence of King David and that he ruled in Jerusalem, but have wondered about how literate were the people of that time. After all, David was not raised as a royal son, yet he wrote psalms from an early age, so one must believe that both reading and writing were more common than some may assume.

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From one article (link to follow): “The Ophel inscription–though untranslated–joins the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon as part of a growing body of archaeological evidence supporting the biblical truth that ancient Hebrews were literate. Rather than inventing a post-dated history, they had the linguistic and cultural tools in place to record it from the earliest days that Israel was recognized among other monarchies of the ancient world.”

https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/shard-shows-written-language-at-jerusalem-when-david-ruled/

Studying the history of the Bible and reading more of different archaeological finds continues to make the characters of the Bible more alive to me. My prayer as I write of stories in the Bible–specifically, Solomon and imagining what his life may have been like as he was growing up in the court of King David–that the Bible will also become more alive to others who will one day read my stories.