24 May 2012, Development - Historical Study, 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
Yesterday, I described the steps I went through to study the Anglo-Saxon culture so I could write write The Chronicles of the Dragon and the Fox (3 published science fiction novels) and Dana-ana (an unpublished, as of yet, historical fiction novel). Those steps were very intensive and took years of life and experience. They also required that I live in different countries. If you really have a desire to write historical fiction, you need to be ready (or find an occupation) to live in different countries and to be immersed in different cultures. It isn't enough to visit these countries. The problem with visiting is what happens and happened to many who went to the Soviet Union and to modern China. Those countries were/are under tyrannies. They would/will not let you know what is really happening to the people and within the society. It was/is impossible to understand the culture without living in it. You can tell how many were/are fooled by these countries by reading the procommunist ideology that came out of the USSR and out of China today--from journalists and others.
The same problem, as well as others, exist with just making visits to other nations. If you go on a vacation to Italy, I assure you unless you make your own way, you will not experience the culture and the people. When I lived in Germany, I travelled on some German led vacation tours of France and other countries. I assure you, a German led tour of France will ensure you only get German food, German style wines and drinks and plenty of other Germans to enjoy France with. I discovered that I had to break away from the German tours and make my own tour--then and only then could I get into the culture of France. This isn't a German problem, this is a cultural problem. American or British led tours that I've participated in are the same, and French led tours to Germany find French food and companions.
If you haven't been immersed in at least one culture other than your own, you will not be able to immerse yourself in others very quickly--you cannot do it in a seven, fourteen, or month long vacation. If you are already familiar with cultural differences, you might be able to. I have been able to get into other cultures pretty easily, but that is due to my past experience and professional training. There is also a problem of comfort and desire. You have to want to immerse yourself, and you have to work at it. It is too easy to fall into your own cultural patterns.
It can help if you are already familiar with the many different American cultures (Northeast, Southern, Midwest, West, Northwest, and all). Each of these are different cultures in their own right. The problem with many Americans is they travel to the Northeast from the South and still order chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. Or they visit Florida and don't eat fish because they don't like fish. If you are interested in studying cultures, you have to leave your own likes and dislikes (your cultural blinders) at home. I mentioned before, if you enter a smoking culture, you need to accept a social cigarette. If you go to a culture that eats raw fish (shashimi), you need to eat raw fish. If you immerse yourself in a culture that eats raw meat (steak tartar), you need to eat it. Only through cultural experience can you hope to learn and understand another culture.
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/.