26 July 2013, Writing Ideas - Writing Historical Fiction, part 8 Into the Present
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.
Well, not quite into the present, but let's move our analysis into the modern
period. As a reader of this blog commented, immersion for more modern eras is
both easier and more difficult. It is more difficult because of the amount of
data available. It is easier because of the amount of data available. In
modern eras, the author must become a data miner and sifter where in the more
ancient historical periods, the author is just a data miner. The good ore from
the past is so rare, an author should be familiar with almost all the writing
from a period. The ore is so available from the modern eras, the author must
discard everything but the best nuggets. The question is how do you do that?
I'll use my book Aegypt http://www.aegyptnovel.com/ as an
example. To study the French Foreign Legion and Tunisia in 1926, I found as
many French Foreign Legion first person accounts as I could and first person
accounts about Tunisia during the period. There are a few--so the nuggets were
available in the ore. I listened to music from that period and studied French
fashion and Tunisian dress and customs. I found traveler's reports from the
times and travel books. I read old papers and tried to glean as much
information about the place and subjects from them. I had to delve into WWI
because the main character of Aegypt, Paul Bolang, participated in that war. I
tried to get broadcasts and decipher the political and culturally important
issues of the times. As I tell my classes, history is like an iceberg, you see
the small bit above the water, but 90 percent of it is out of sight. In a great
historical fiction novel, you only see the tip of the author's research, the
rest is buried deep within the novel. If you visit the website for Aegypt http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, you
can review the slides for the classes I have taught on the history in the
novel. Through these, you can begin to see the depth of information assumed in
the final novel. Many of the facts and figures I show in the slides is nowhere
in the book, because Aegypt is not a history text, it is historical fiction.
To describe all the tailings of research in the novel would just bore the
reader--the point is that all the history described in the class slides is
apparent in the novel whether it is directly addressed or not. The characters,
events, and places revolve around the historicity of the novel, and this gives
it its historical authenticity. So, like in your general writing, don't
show everything, likewise, in your historical fiction, there is no need for you
regurgitate all you learned onto the page. You only need show your readers what
is important to drive the storyline, plot, and theme. Everything else should
come out as a result of your self immersion and therefore your voice of the
times and culture.
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.