24 July 2013, Writing Ideas - Writing Historical Fiction, part 6 The Voice of the Times
Announcement: My novels Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness are about to be published. I write this blog about 2 months prior to its publication. I just heard that the proofs will be here soon--likely before the end of the week. My publisher also wants to put the entire set of novels based on Aegypt on contract--that's 5 more novels for 8 total. They also want to put my other novels on contract. The release schedule should be one novel every 2 months. I'll keep you updated.
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.
The four basic rules I employ when 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.
I'm not certain there is any writing that is easy. All writing is difficult,
but I think historical fiction may be the most difficult. First, it requires a
lot of research and especially primary and secondary source research (real
research) that is if you intend to write good historical fiction. Second, you
must immerse yourself in the culture and understand it from the point of a
participant. Third, you have to be able to find the voice of the times and
culture. The voice of the times and culture is the point of immersion and
research. Fourth, you have to be able to write well. The fourth point is
beyond the scope of this series, but is is a critical point. Many of us have
read literature today that is crippled by the inability of the author to write
well. Many popular books are missing the spark of good writing and makes you
wonder why they were published to begin with. But back to the third point...if
you can't capture the voice of the times and culture, your historical fiction
will not be historical fiction; it will be a modern novel set in a historical
period. That simple observation has been my greatest experience with writing
that claims to be historical fiction today. Most is not historical at all, but
rather modern fiction set in a historical period. When you find modern issues
and modern ideas along with historical infidelity in a historical novel, that
writer has not taken the three required steps to write about the times. So how
do you find the voice of the times? That is a function of immersion and
knowledge, but the precise point is that you have to subjugate your mind to the
mind of the times. Now comes the difficult point. To have the voice of the
times and culture means the ability to convey that time and culture to your
readers in the modern world. I personally use many genre crossing techniques to
allow a modern person to see the times and culture through the eyes of the
modern world. The normal technique in historical fiction is the one from my
novel Centurion http://www.centurionnovel.com/.
Centurion uses the typical model of simply a novel from the viewpoint
of the people of the times. There are no tricks and there is no ability or
basis for comparison with the modern world. The novel unfolds as a normal piece
of historical fiction writing. In The Second Mission http://www.thesecondmission.com/, I
use time travel as a technique to move the reader into the past. This method
allows the writer to make comparisons and to convey the period through the eyes
of a modern person. It also allows comparisons with a future world or ideas.
This is a complex method and requires the author to be strongly consistent in
immersion and research. If the comparisons aren't there, then their is no
purpose in using this technique. The third method I have used (by no means the
last) is using a fantastic means to pull people from the past into the
present. Aegypt http://www.aegyptnovel.com/ takes place
in 1926 and pulls a being from the 18th Egyptian dynasty (1539 to 1295 BC) into
that place and time. The comparisons here and the power in the novel is the
ability to see the world in the French Foreign Legion in Tunisia in 1926, the
period of great archaeological discoveries in Egypt, plus the comparison of the
world from the eyes of a person from classical Egypt. And that ultimately is
the power of historical fiction. It allows the author to present the past as it
was and lets the reader see the differences from their times and culture. Tomorrow,
I'll expand on this.
For more information, you can visit my author site www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com, www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.