20 May 2012, Development - Historical Study, Cultural Awareness Differences Similarities
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
I'm writing about sources of historical research and how to make historical research. These apply to any novel or any subject you might wish to study. Here is a list:
1. Primary source documents or artifacts
2. Secondary source documents or artifacts
3. Tertiary source documents or artifacts
If you do get the history right--that is the details as well as the basics--there is another piece of history that needs to fill out your works. This additional part is cultural awareness. Here is the list of how to develop your target period for writing a historical novel.
1. Primary sources (secondary second)
2. Clean slate
3. Add in only what you find from primary sources (secondary next)
4. Cultural awareness
5. Historical feel
So, what features do human societies have in common? You really have to go to the most basic human desires and needs to find them. Human cultures share the need of food and drink. The foods and drinks they consume, the way they get them, the way they prepare them, the way they consume them are all different between cultures. For example, Asiatic cultures use chop sticks. Many ancient and not so ancient cultures eat with their hands. Some societies eat exclusively with one hand or another. In some cultures the use of the left hand indicates insult or pollution. Most European cultures eat with utensils that range from forks, knives, and spoons of all types and varieties, but that wasn't always true. Early Europeans up to the late Middle Ages ate with their hands and perhaps with a knife. They gradually moved into all types and varieties of utensils over time. You can almost determine the time in history by the types. You can definitely determine the level of cultural aristocracy by the types and number of utensils. Alan Bradley indicates the social level of his heroine Felicia DeLuca in just this way. It happens that his novels are set in the 1950s.
I haven't even begun to look at an area of interest different than how people eat. Everybody eats--they just don't all eat in the same way. I hope you got the point. Every culture has sex. Dependent on the culture, they get there and they participate in it in different ways. It is silly to portray human sexuality as forever the same.
All cultures raise children, none of them raise children in the same way. In Western cultures it was not unusual to routinely beat girls and boys in school and at home until the 20th century. This isn't that uncommon in other cultures today. All cultures raise children differently.
So, if cultures are so different, why do we get all these books where foreign cultures look just like AmerEnglish culture? I'll give you a couple of thoughts. The first is this. Modern AmerEnglish people know the real world is more like Rudyard Kipling's depicting of Indian culture and not a reflection of AmerEnglish culture--they just don't want to believe it. The idea that people are really different scares them. They want to repeat the lie to themselves and their children that the world looks just like they do. The second reason is like unto the first, books about real cultures won't sell... or that is the perception of publishers.
I'll write more about that tomorrow.
I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples: http://www.ldalford.com/, and the individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com/, http://www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor.com/, and http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.