To which Julius Caesar replied, “The ides of March have come.”
“Aye, Caesar; but not gone,” the soothsayer retorted.
And sure enough, before the day was over, Julius Caesar was assassinated, with his good buddies Brutus and Cassius leading the pack of as many as 60 conspirators.
The story is familiar to the vast majority of us solely because it was dramatized by William Shakespeare, who started with a factual recorded history and brought it to life on stage. But the story was based on Sir Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s “Parallel Lives,”—a drier than toast, but nonetheless factual account, of the politics of the time. So yes, we know there really was a soothsayer, and yes, he really did caution Caesar to stay away from the Senate.
Which brings modern-day writers face-to-face with the necessity of thoroughly researching our topics. Heaven forbid that an error be made, even in fiction, that a savvy reader would not hesitate to jump in and publicly point out.
It’s likely that Shakespeare had a little help with this phase of his creations. James Michener, known for his meticulous research, was said to have employed “an army of researchers to gather background” for his novels. This research included detailed historical, cultural and geological documents, music, photographs, maps, recipes, and all sorts of potentially relevant material.
And that was before the Internet.
I do a fair amount of research myself. I want to make sure that what I write is my very best attempt at accuracy, even in fiction. But when I look up one small thing, it often leads to another and another and another little tidbit that piques my curiosity, and KA-BOOM! I’m off and running in another direction.
Which naturally means that if I don’t carefully watch myself, each of these blog posts of mine could easily take an hour or more to complete… Friends, Romans, Countrymen, beware the deep and cavernous recesses of the Internet—Oh look! A chicken!