The Knowledge of Socrates: A Warning

Socratic Method

Yes, that’s me in the cartoon. As I’m sure the world was dying to know what I looked like I finally decided to utilise my considerable self-portrait skills to–What? My beard? No, you idiot, I’m supposed to be the one in black!

Anyway, the knowledge of Socrates. Those of you in the know will know that by his own estimation that amounted to precisely nothing, but he was willing to accept the Oracle of Delphi’s word that there was no man wiser than he because so many people thought they knew something… and it tuned out they didn’t. So in knowing that he knew nothing Socrates at least knew one thing, while no one else knew anything. Simple, really.

How that fits in with my little whine for today is that it seems I too know nothing, and here I like to assume anyone reading this is too torn over whether to mock me by saying how obvious that was from the beginning, or to make a Game of Thrones reference to end up doing either.

Instead, let me tell you my story. When I was a tween, my aunt sent me many historical novels set in her distant home of America. A very popular setting for an American tween historical novel is that of the pioneers travelling west in the mid-nineteenth century–a dangerous journey that typically took the better part of a year. I can remember three such books that I read off the top of my head right now.

Fast-forward to 2013 when I had the idea for ‘The Ritual of DUELS‘, a story involving as many mythologies as I could squeeze in there (too many, as it turned out; the book has since had to be divided into three parts). I decided early on that one of the main characters would be based in California, part of a family whose job it was to monitor supernatural activity in the south-western US, who work with local legendary creatures and had native blood in their veins themselves.

So of course the first question that comes to mind is ‘which Native American tribe/tribes lived/live in that area?’

But of course, I didn’t have to look up the answer to that question, because I already “knew” it. I’d read historical novels ten years prior in which American pioneers on their way to California were constantly running into the Sioux people. Therefore, the Sioux lived outside California, so the character would be part Sioux.

Yes, I know, I know, you’ve already figured it out. After I took the time to research Sioux folklore (not where they actually lived, keep in mind, just their folklore) and writing thousands of words of the book with that research in mind, it turns out the Sioux DON’T live just outside California. No, they live considerably further north-east. Like, thousands of miles north-east.

I know it’s hard to believe, but my trusting an inference I made based on ten-year-old memories of some children’s fiction I once read… was a BAD idea!

Sigh. Well, since the whole book needs to be massively re-written to deal with the pacing and consistency issues anyway it’s not a book-ruiner, and that part of the character was mostly for world-building anyway. I’ve changed the tribe the family is related to to the Hopi (they’re not from California either, but they are within the territory the family monitors). You might think it would have been easier to shift the family’s location, but that actually makes things more complicated for reasons, so Hopi it is.

I don’t know how common it is that idiots like me write their books thinking they know something and don’t have to look it up while actually being completely wrong about what they know. I don’t really do writing-advice pieces either, I mean, I think this is my only one. But if the only thing you can know is that you know nothing, I guess this is the only advice I can give.

So remember, kids, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!


[Socrates’ first uncomfortable and unwelcome question to this know-nothing author:

What happened to his nipple in the cartoon?]


One thought on “The Knowledge of Socrates: A Warning

  1. Megan Norris Jones says:

    It’s so hard to know when to stop and do your research and when to just get on with writing lest you spend the rest of your days researching. But, advice taken. I’ll be sure to double check the basics at the beginning of the writing and research process. Sorry about your setback, but I’m glad you’re taking it in stride.

    Liked by 1 person

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