I just finished an online community college course on the weather. Why? Because it's there. And I was curious. I tanked the final, had a hard time understanding all the components of the systems and how they all fit together, and especially how to prioritize what was most important to know first.
So, what does this have to do with writing speculative fiction? I happened upon a book called Ill Wind by Rachel Caine and I bought it because it was about a weather warden and her djinn, or lack of one. Ooooo. I was right to get it. Each chapter started with a weather report. Lots and lots of weather manipulation. Mind you, couldn't verify the accuracy of any of it. Still don't know how to relate updrafts to cloud formation.
I do have a great idea for a story. In fact, it's one of my better ones and something I've done before. I decided that one of my characters will be studying weather as a magical practice. I will sit her down with the text book and take her through the same material I went through. I will have her struggle with prioritizing the text and making sense of what happens when in a weather system.
Already, I can see how I could have studied better. I am imagining a kind of Dungeons and Dragons play space but room sized so that it can fit the scale of a source area. How many inches to one mile? How close to the ceiling is a storm cloud? She's got station charts for symbol sources and the only difference between her and a weather forecaster is that she is casting the weather not forecasting it. Practicing the art of weather on a small scale. Lots of trouble to get into their.
I said this is not the first time I thought of using a character to help me understand something complex. The first time (an uncompleted project but still possible) I proposed a topic for my online English 1A semester: teaching calculus to goblins.
What subject are you interested in but think it's too complex to tackle on your own? Any idea how you might use a character to work through a problem? Go on adventures that are too dangerous or scary to tackle for real?
What research have you done for a story that filled you with excitement at learning something new? Or, better yet, that taught it to you much more easily than teachers tried to?
Will keep you posted on the calculus thing. Turned out to be more about how we talk about math, and about linguistics and language than about calculus.