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Down the rabbit hole

Sometimes, when I’m writing, I need to look something up, and it’s easy to go down the research rabbit hole. But sometimes, it’s really procrastination, when I’m wandering around the web, just ‘lookin’, not for anything really necessary, but just because it’s fun. And interesting.

Currently I’m writing a scene where my hero is stuck in a relatively snow-bound tiny cottage with an injured girl and a small boy. There’s not a lot to do. It seems the small boy knows chess, but they don’t have a chess set. So what’s a hero to do? Yes, of course — he improvises.

And that’s where my rabbit-hole journey began. Many years ago I conceived the notion of making a chess set out of gum nuts and Fimo (which is a kind of oven-baked polymer clay.) I don’t even play chess, so there was no reason to make the pieces, except for fun. I was playing with making weird faces. I never did finish the set, but I still have a few of the pieces.

At first I thought of a chess set made of nuts, maybe hazelnuts, or acorns or horse chestnuts. But it’s pretty cold outside  in my story, and any search for fallen nuts would be chilly — they’d be under snow. So then I thought of twigs. So easy to write, “He pulled out his knife and fashioned some rough chess pieces out of twigs.” And keep writing. And I should have done just that. But I didn’t.

The rabbit hole was calling and I googled “twig chess pieces” and oh wow, there are some gorgeous examples of home-made carved chess pieces. I loved these ones with their grim, almost mythological, yet lifelike faces. And even though I knew my hero didn’t have time (or maybe even the skills) to carve anything like these, I had to keep looking.


These on the right are beautiful, aren’t they? Rough cut, but perfect and with bold, imaginative designs. I particularly love the knight with his Romanesque crest. But again, my hero only had one knife, and it would get pretty blunt with all this carving.

So in the end I decided on something simple, like this one below — only I’m going to have him insert twigs into the headpieces of the important pieces, a bit like a crown. 
( )

And then, because I completely fell in love with these silly charming sheep ones below, I’m showing you them,  just for fun.  Even though  my hero could not possibly make them.

Maybe I should dig out my old Fimo and try making some like these.  Or maybe I should just get out of the rabbit hole and finish this story.  (That was a rhetorical question, by the way. I know what you’d say.) ;)


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Merry-Sue Adair-Gill
Merry-Sue Adair-Gill
4 years ago

The sheep remind me of the Serta sheep. The rooks and knights are too cute.

Janice Dunlap
Janice Dunlap
4 years ago

I don’t play chess but have always loved the artistry of some of the sets. I liked the rough hewn set you showed

4 years ago

I am constantly getting lost down rabbit holes when I’m writing and need to do some ‘quick’ research. Hours later, I find I’ve learned lots and lots of things but haven’t written another word.

I love that sheepie set!! I really want a Lewis reproduction set. I have a beautiful Christmas set I put out for the holidays but alas, I am the only one who plays…

Venette Schafer
Venette Schafer
4 years ago

Those are really awesome chess sets!! I love the sheep! I’m not a writer but I get lost in rabbit holes all the time!!