19 July 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, History
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.
Here are my rules of writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
All language is symbols. Therefore it shouldn't surprise you that your writing should include higher level symbols. What are higher level symbols? I mentioned before the cross as a symbol. The cross is a higher level symbol--a symbol that doesn't depend on language. Symbols can be ready made or author made symbols. Some symbols are a mix.
The idea of storylines, levels, and motivations of characters relates directly back to how much should you understand about your characters, their historical times, and their culture. The question one of my readers asked was the extent that I outline. Outline is a good word to describe the preliminary step of character design (or development). Remember, I've written that the author develops the character before writing the novel and only reveals the characters within the novel--if this isn't clear, read back through this blog.
So, the step of development (design and outline). I've written before about studying history. You need an outline of the history of the times and either an outline of what you can prove is true about that time or an innate knowledge of it. For example, I made a detailed study of the times surrounding the novel Aksinya before I began to write. I penned a few notes that specifically related to the history of the times and information about the period. Because I have written a novel before about this period (or close to it 1926), I already had notes and a foundation of information. As I wrote the novel, whenever I touched on a subject area that I knew was questionable about the "true" history of the times, I carefully researched the area before I continued writing. I did this with my published 1926 novel, Aegypt. In fact, one of my publisher's questions related to the use of a lighter in the novel. I had researched this extensively. In 1910, the permanent match type lighter was invented and had extensive use through WWI and following until the invention of the Zippo lighter in 1932. The permanent match is what the saying "Three on a match" refers to.
The primary historical questions for the writing of Aksinya was bathroom and household facilities during the period 1918 to 1919. In this period, these varied from nothing to full bathrooms with hot and cold running water. I tried to show this in Aksinya, and this is one of the levels of symbol and understanding in the novel. As I wrote previously, in developing the history of something as simple as a bathroom, I started with a blank slate and used historical information to fill in the holes and properly describe the historical bathrooms. If you can imagine that in the country in the times, the highest aristocrat had an outhouse and used chamber pots. There was not running water and bath water was heated usually in the bathroom with a stove (thus bathroom not water closet). In the cities, the wealthy were installing hot and cold running water systems (usually heated from the same boiler that heated the new radiant (radiator) heat). They had toilets for a while, but the bidet was catching on--especially with warm water available. The details of the subject are excruciating, but that is how a historical fiction writer needs to approach even the most mundane subject about the past. Culture, tomorrow.
There is much more to writing without confusing your readers. I'll write about that tomorrow. The following is a question asked by one of my readers. I'm going to address this over time: Please elaborate on scene, theme, plot, character development in a new novel creation....ie, the framework, the development, order if operation, the level of detail, guidelines, rule of thumb, tricks, traps and techniques. To what extent do you outline the historic context, culture, mannerism, speech, dress and thought process of the main characters, in a historic novel...in order to maintain integrity, and gradually (help) reveal attributes of a character in the story, or otherwise clarify the plot, scene, transition, tension or resolution?
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/.