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Monday, May 28, 2012

Development - Historical Study, Language and Historical Feel

28 May 2012, Development - Historical Study, Language and Historical Feel

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

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.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

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
4. Quatriary

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

In the past, you could gain some degree of historical feel through the use of foreign language in a novel.  It was patently common to see French, Greek, Latin and sometimes German in English and American novels.  French novels sometimes included snippets of English.  In an age when there was an expectation for the educated (at least educated well enough to read a book) to understand other languages, the inclusion of a bit of another language was the norm.  Today, people are not educated nearly as well as the poorly educated of the past.  Any touch of French (unless explained or translated) will become an unassailable mountain to your readers.  In fact, I've had problems from some readers about the level of English that I use in my novels--they claim they need a dictionary at hand, oh well.

In spite of this, there are ways to incorporate language to produce historical feel.  In my published novel, Centurion, I wanted to capture the historical feel of the Levant in the first century.  At that time, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic were the common languages.  They were the common languages much like English, French, German, and Italian are the languages of Switzerland.  The trick in Centurion was to convey to the reader when a speaker was speaking Greek, Latin, or Aramaic.  My solution was to use the Aramaic pronunciations (spellings) for names and places when the speakers were using Aramaic and the Anglicized forms when they were using Greek or Latin, for example, Miryam for Mary.  Further, when the characters were speaking Latin, I had them use the correct Latin terms for an object and not the common English, for example, gladius for short sword.  The solution was very elegant, and I think the novel captures the historical feel through language, along with other methods. 

I use language differences to some degree in all my novels. I'll write about that tomorrow.

I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples:, and the individual novel websites:,,,,, and

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