Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hazards of Historical Fiction...

Quote of the Day: "Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."--Phyllis Diller

Well, it's happening again. I am spending WAY too much time on the Internet. I guess we all have our vices, but when I'm spending a few hours a day online (ahem, usually for research, yeah, that's right) that's a "bit" much I'm afraid.
Instead of going outside into the backyard with my kids, I tend to "watch them" from my office window, as I tap tap tap happily away on my writer's forums, threads, blog, and basically everything except my novel, which I MUST get done. I might lower my word count expectations for this one--60,000 words is a bit hefty for a YA novel. I think I might try for 50K to start out with. Unless it takes more to tell my story.

Historical fiction is very tedious. First there is the research. People who read historical fiction find it jarring when things don't "add up" historically or make sense. (I mean, people freaked out because Tom Hank's character's wife in Apollo 13 used a wall phone in the movie, and wall phones hadn't been invented yet!)
Yes, people like their history to be accurate. So even if you're writing fiction, you better be darn tootin' sure that you're at least making it believable and historically accurate to a certain degree.

You're usually talking about things that people don't "do" (or know anything about) anymore and so there is some wordage wasted on explaining things--because not everyone knows what, for instance, the game of Whist was, or what a Smoke pin was, or what a Barouche was, etc.. (you get the picture.) Granted, it's not like I explain everything when I use terms relative to the time period I'm writing about, but I have to put action verbs and adjectives around the archaic word, so people can at least guess.

So, I will spend anywhere from 3 to 6 months gathering info about my time period, before I even write one word (or go past the first chapter anyway.)
I think that's what's stalling me on this one. My characters go to Egypt (in 1890) and I'm intimidated about writing it because I've never even been to modern day Egypt, and I have to rely on the accounts of others to glean enough knowledge to make the reader feel like they're really in 1890 Cairo.

It's not easy, by any means. Like I said, I think that's the holdup for me. I am worried about my Egypt not sounding authentic, even though I have exhaustive resources on the subject at this point. (too much to read, even!)
Well, as one of my writer friends is fond of quoting: just "Get the sh*t down." I need to get a spine (or courage or whatever) and just write out the story, and go back and add authentic details later. There isn't anything more embarrassing than having an editor tell you that there's a major historical inaccuracy in your story. (That's happened to me once, thank heaven the editor liked my story enough to have me revise it for her!) Even though ultimately she rejected it, at least I have that "glaring error" fixed for future editors.

Well I need to go pay attention to the babies now. Gamecube is NOT a good babysitter. It's absolutely gorgeous outside. I think it's about time my boys learned how to build proper sandcastles.

1 comment:

Michelle Miles said...

I know what a Barouche is! LOL

You know what might help? Write a rough outline/synopsis. Then go back and work from that. That's what I'm doing on the jousting novel. Worry about the details later and just get the sh*t down. LOL! You can do it!

(I know how hard it is, though, since I'm writing this jousting novel.)