As many of you may already know, I am always coming up with a new idea. Sadly, my current project has me annoyed to the point I don’t even want to look at it. Though I did allow myself to read a good chunk of it, and I was pleasantly surprised. Having said that I still had to put it on the back burner, and for the meantime, I am working on something else.
Since I want to learn more about my French Culture, I decided that I would continue my creative output with a historical piece. I have always wanted to write something that took place either in the Victorian Ear or Earlier. One of my favorite books is a steampunk series written by Gail Carriger, Soulless.
So as hard as it is to write a normal story, why oh why would I want to add the other challenge of a historical aspect to it. Well, because again I wanted to learn more about my own culture and then I wanted to have a story that framed around the 18th century. I am not as talented as Ms. Carriger and to boot I am no steampunk writer. (BOO! one day I shall get there.)
So how does one embark on a historical quest? Well, one must do research. As horrible as that sounds, it is something that is necessary. In a traditional historical fiction piece, your story takes place around the events that happened during a particular time in our history. For instance the story of Rose and Jack in Titanic.
Now, keep in mind that you can do all the research that you want to, but you have to remember that your readers have not done that research so you can’t put things in there that a person can’t say “oh yeah I know that!”
Of course, you want to use the particular language of the age, “The lady doth protest too much, me, thinks!” (“Hamlet”, By William Shakespear.) But you don’t want to dive too deep into the language that a person from today can’t read it. For example,Giz a butcher’s at than then will you? Would you know that this meant “Let me have a look at that then, will you?” (Taken from Examples of Cockney English).
(If you wrote a character that spoke Cockney English then you might want to include a translator, or a translation found somewhere in the text!)
Ok, so you looked into that period of time, you focus on the language, and you feel confident you have what you need. Wrong! The next step in writing your historical fiction is to understand what they wore, how they did their hair, did they take baths? Etc.
For instance, during my research into the 18th century, I learned that society was afraid to take a bath because they believed they could catch their death with water! In order to deal with body funk, the people of the day used powders, perfumes, herbs such as Lavender. So, in my story, I can add that someone took a bath but I can’t add they used soap because they wouldn’t have. Nor would they have used shampoo. If someone was really funky, they would more than likely dipped into a river to “wash” away from the putridness.
Around Mary Antoinette’s time, she was noted to always need some “linens”. The fancy people (aristocrats) of the day used linens to keep b.o. at bay and to keep them from bleeding all over the place during the special time of the month.
Word to the wise you may also want to look into women’s rights. I know it is hard to believe in 2016 that women didn’t always have a place in society. But if you remembered anything from the plethora of history classes in your educational career you would know that women for the longest time were seen as property. In a World War II book, you could put that she had a job, while her husband was away. Or that they were so broke she had to work but if you book were a Victorian piece. Well, the wife had to have permission from her husband. It was customary for the wife to stop working once she was married.
Ok, so checklist time. We have historical research, we have language and we have fashion. do we need anything else? Can we write now? Um, well this is where I would totally suggest that you use an outline or a character map. You will want to make sure to keep events, timetables, and people straight.
Another thing that I want to mention is that you make sure to read some other historical fiction books. I used Outlander. I also used some useful information from Diana Gabaldon’s website. “Outlander” is so beautifully written and heartbreaking, I also think she is a perfect example to use when you want to know how to do it a historical fiction right. (Side note, my character meets Claire. I did it as a wink and an homage to “Outlander.”)
I know that you will be spending a super amount of time researching before you write but it will make your story and it will help your creative jucies. Lastly, I think you should read is “The Last Days of New Paris.” by China Mieville.
I hope my research into writing historical fiction as helped you in one way or another. Let me know what kind of progress you have achieved or if there is something that worked for you that you would like to share!
Until then my sweets! Keep writing.
P.S. Why you wait for “Splintered Secrets” to come out, check out Fallen.