I really hate it when my English lets me down. Within certain areas I can draw on a pretty impressive vocabulary (I'm sure my ex-teachers and ex-lecturers would be stunned by the sheer number of smut-related words that I can use without batting an eyelid *cough*), but every now and then I come across word fields where I have no clue.
Mostly these word fields pertain the physical world. I find it hard to describe objects and places accurately. Fun fairs, machines, architecture, etc.
This is particularly irksome with regard to my fic Four Fear. How am I supposed to describe a headlong flight past the popcorn stall(?) and the sweets shop (?) and describe the open mouths of the livery-wearing circus salespersons (??), when I don't really know what the correct words are. And what are the chains of colored light-bulbs called that mark the path from the entrance to the big top? Fairy lights? That's a Christmas term, right? Especially in action scenes it's important that descriptions are spot on as well as short, otherwise the section reads as cumbersome and does not reflect the urgency of the content. *bangs head on desk*
A few weeks ago, when the circus was in town, I asked the press person (?) of the circus if they have any material on how a circus is run. I told them I wanted background material for a story I am writing as well as material for a creative writing course I'm offering this fall. Alas, they said they don't hand out material to private people, only to the press. Bah.
Lawrence Block said in his book Writing the Novel - From Plot to Print:
"It's worth remembering, I think, that fakery is the very heart and soul of fiction. Unless your writing is pure autobiography in the guise of a novel, you will continually find yourself practicing the dark arts of the illusionist and the trade of the counterfeiter. All our stories are nothing but a pack of lies. Research is one of the tools to veil this deception from our readers, but this is not to say that the purpose of research is to make our stories real. It's to make them look real, and there's a big difference." (p.107)
I have googled the term 'circus' several times and searched the results for useful sites on circus organisation (and terminolgy) but without success. I want the circus in my story to appear authentic, but boy, does ignorance weigh heavily on my shoulders.