21 May 2012, Development - Historical Study, Cultural Awareness Differences Why
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
Novels about real culture and cultural differences would sell very well--the problem is there are so few of them. If most authors can't get the most basic details of history right, they certainly aren't going to come close to properly depicting cultural differences. When a publisher finds the rare jewel of a novel that does get culture right, they will definitely want to contract that book.
If you didn't notice, getting cultures right is very difficult. Just as most historical fiction isn't historical fiction at all, they are mostly modern novels in a historical setting, most historical (or other) novels about other cultures is a fantasy in a foreign setting. Most novels don't come close to getting other cultures right. In fact, many novels don't even get sister AmerEnglish cultures right.
In the near past (19th to early 20th century), most writers were able to communicate culture and language across the page of a novel. Additionally, most readers were able to understand and appreciate those cultural differences. The reason for this was travel and experience. Most writers before the mid to late 20th century were multilingual and trained in Latin and Greek. They read in foreign languages and they were travelled. Today, many authors are not experienced travelers or classically trained. The result is most of them and their readers don't have much appreciation for other cultures or language. The ubiquitous nature of English makes travel much less of an experience of cultural enlightenment than a training tool for other cultures to become more like AmerEnglish culture. You can cap that with a broad propensity of many travelers to isolate themselves from the cultures they are visiting.
So, what are you going to do about that? I'd recommend not writing about any culture you haven't studied well. This returns to the basis of my latest blogs--study of the period and culture about which you intend to write. It helps to immerse yourself in the culture in question.
I'll write about cultural immersion and cultural study 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/.