27 May 2012, Development - Historical Study, more 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 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
What exactly is historical feel? Historical feel is the quality of a historical novel, where the reader strongly can detect the culture and history within a novel yet feels immersed in the writing. It would go without saying that the history and the culture must be right--otherwise the reader may have an impression of historical feel, but with no basis.
Historical feel means the reader can tangibly note the differences between the culture(s) portrayed and her own, but that she accepts them. Just as in the concept of sustained suspension of reality in a great fantasy novel where the author creates a world that is not based on the principles of reality (magic, time travel space travel, and all), but the author's world has such a powerful quality of reality that the reader is completely sucked into it and completely believes it. This is the power of great historical literature. When the history and culture is completely accurate, and the reader completely accepts the reality of the history portrayed and yet realizes it is a completely different time and place than his own.
This duality of acceptance and perception of differences is precisely the feel a great historical novel should convey. The means an author uses to achieve this should be based in all the regular tools in the author's writing skills but with the very critical addition of historical study and cultural awareness. An example of an author who gets this right is Alan Bradley. His Flavia de Luca novels are set in the 1950s in England. I haven't noticed any historical irregularities in his very tightly developed novels. He is well studied in the period and his knowledge of the culture is very good. His works are well set off by his use of descriptive language that helps convey the feel of the times. His use of language in conversation sets the tone for the culture which is much different than today. He does take a couple of cultural issues out of their full context and applies modern morals and ideas to them, but I'll forgive him. I'd rather have historical novels that don't ever compromise with the truth. Still, his novels have strong historical feel and much of that feel is due to the way he uses language.
This is something I wanted to achieve in my novel Centurion through the use of language. I'll write 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/.