25 May 2012, Development - Historical Study, even more Cultural Study
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
To be able to understand another culture you must be willing and able to immerse yourself in it. To be clear, immersion means you actually experience the entirety of the culture. You must eat the food they eat, act the way they do, discuss the subject they discuss, speak their language, dress like they dress, and all. The question becomes, can you understand a culture without going to these extremes? Based on the writing I've seen, the answer is an absolute, no.
Then, the next question is how do you study a culture that is dead? I gave that answer in the last couple of days, but I'll be less specific and more general. To understand a dead culture, you must first gain your basic education in cultures--you must experience and immerse yourself in another culture. Almost any different language culture will do. I suggested the use of a similar culture to the one you wish to study (that's why I immersed myself in German culture). Second, you must learn the language of the culture you wish to study. You don't need to speak it, you just need to understand it. That means you can generally translate it with a pony and dictionary. You need to understand the details of it compared to other languages. Third, you need to study the literature and writing of the culture. If there is too much writing to reasonably read, you need to study the subject matter you intend to write about.
I'll add another example. One of my novels is about Socrates and set in 400-399 BCE. To study this dead and ancient culture (ancient Attic Greece): I learned the language, I translated the five Socratic dialogs I wished to focus on in my writing, I read all the Socratic dialogs, and I read every piece of Greek writing I could get my hands on from the period. After I read all the primary source documents I could get, I read all the secondary source documents, and the tertiary documents from the period. After that, I moved to documents in other languages from the time period (mostly primary documents).
I'll write more 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/.