I'd like to talk a little bit about my research for Richard & Amanda (I really have to come up with a title). Richard is a Captain with the Royal Navy (circa 1816). In my novel I have made him the person who captured Napoleon at Rochefort. I had to totally scope out how he could have done this at such an early age, he's only 36. I found a sight on Wikipedia (thank god for Wiki) who listed all the people who were in the Navy, on ships, at that time. I then had to go through that list and find men who were on boats at a particular time which corresponded with Richard's age and career track. Richard is now an amalgum of 9 different people with a career, that might be construed as totally fantastical. (That's why it's called fiction.)
Once I figured out how Richard could have his career, I made him chuck it. Once he captured Napoleon, what else was there? (Napoleon tried to sneak out the proverbial back door to get to the open sea, but the HMS Bellerophon received word he would try and escape from Bordeaux. The captain then sent two smaller craft to reconnoiter and watch the French coast at Bordeaux and Arcachon. The captain's suspicions were correct that Napoleon would try to leave from Rochefort. (Because he was a brilliant commander.) The HMS Bellerophon moved in and took Napoleon's craft, took Boney and his crew on board. The captain then spent a few days with Napoleon as his captive. They say, both the captain and Boney played chess and became sort of friends as they discussed Boney's attempted take-over of the world.) Just a little history lesson for ya'.
Any-hoo you may wonder why I spent so much time researching all that if I made Richard retire from the Navy right after it happened. And the answer is, to see if I could. The real captain of the Bellerophon did not retire, he went on to become a commodore and then an admiral. I wanted Richard to have had the conversations with Boney during those days/weeks about life, love and pursuit of the Empire's happiness. And guess what, after almost 20 years fighting for a cause, Richard found that he didn't need to fight anymore. Boney and the threat had been defeated. So why shouldn't he retire?
I felt I needed all that background to help flesh out more of Richard's character. I already knew he was going to be strong and decisive, used to handing out orders, and not being disobeyed, even-tempered, level-headed, a commanding presence. (no pun intended). Now I just needed a reason for him to be that way, hence a captain in the navy. Rather than the army, too much bloody battle.
The reason I made Richard retire was that I also needed him to be at odds with his life, now the war was over. His retirement was a disappointment to his father (who was an Admiral), his grandfather (who was Admiral of the Fleet), the Prince Regent -- (he and Richard and Robert were great friends at one time) but most importantly to himself. Having been hailed as the hero of the century for capturing Napoleon, where could he go from there? Richard is now loaded with angst. What could he ever do for the rest of his life that would compare to what he had already done? How could he ever live up to his own reputation? I suppose if you want to say, that is my character sketch for Richard. And truly the only one I've ever done. All of my other's I have pulled from the ether.
Now, most of this information won't be in the book. More than likely it will be alluded to, through dialogue and discourse, perhaps a dream, perhaps a memory, I don't know, I haven't gotten that far. I also have scores of information on the slave trade, South Carolina crops, what a full compliment means on a sailing vessel, the differences between a boatswain and a coxswain, geographic and ocean longitude and latitudes, and a whole boatload of other stuff that who knows if I'll use.
But I needed all this to make a believable book, to make Richard a believable character. I LOVE Richard. He is by far my most favorite character of all that I have in my head and in files. (In answer to a question Falen never asked.) He has the most sadness in his soul (until he meets Amanda). He has the most angst. He has the most incredible grey eyes. LOL
So I guess what I'm trying to say with this post, is that you CAN over research, you just need to know WHY you're researching it. I wanted Richard to be the best damn captain he could be, the best man he could be. I wanted Richard to be BELIEVABLE.
So tell me gentle readers, why do you do research? Or do you?