29 July 2013, Writing Ideas - Writing Historical Fiction, part 11 more Examples
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.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
Applicable to all writing, I offer my five basic rules again, and I will show
you some examples of how to immerse your readers in your writing.
yourself in the world of your writing - colliery: immerse your readers in the
world of your writing.
If you noticed, I added a colliery. The point here
and the point of the question I answered yesterday was: how do you immerse your
readers in a completely different world than their own? I have a foot up
because one of my day jobs is to teach people, and in those classes, I try to
get them to experience the cultures we are talking about. Writing however is
very different than technical writing or teaching. You can't immerse your
readers by suddenly giving them a treatise on a culture or history. So
I'll provide some examples from my writing.
The first example is
description from the novel Aegypt, http://www.aegyptnovel.com/:
signaled his men to remount. His horse, l’Orage, was skittish and danced back a
step as Paul hauled his aching frame into the saddle. Her muscles rippled like
silk under her black coat, and Paul touched her gently to soothe her. l’Orage
had been his steed for nearly three years, almost half the time he had been in
He had bought her from a Berber’s market on the coast. She was
the most beautiful horse he had ever seen. Feral and full of fire, she was
uncontrollable in the hands of her merchant owners and stood blindfolded and
hobbled in the market horse pen. A demon in the guise of a horse, she was black
as charcoal without a trace of lighter markings. Paul knew she was stolen the
minute his eyes lit upon her.
He paid in cash—francs, and few of those,
because of her temperament. When he entered the pen to claim her, Berbers,
Arabs, and Tunisians lined the enclosure to watch the black fiend trample the
foolish Lieutenant. Paul walked quietly up to her, and when the laughing
merchant stripped off the blindfold and hobbles, Paul spoke a single word.
l’Orage calmed immediately and let him stroke her face.
he led her on a light field-lead out of the marketsquare. The marketplace had
turned into a frenzy of babbling men, women, and children. The native peoples
sidled out of Paul’s way as if he were himself a demon from the pit. At the edge
of the market, to the amazement of the spectators, Paul leapt upon l’Orage
bareback and rode off at a gallop. He laughed all the way back to the
l’Orage was a horse trained for war. She was an Arabian, bred
and drilled to the battlefield. She was trained to kill and to the tactics of
combat. She was a European’s horse. Paul could tell by her carriage and by the
saddle scars on her flanks. Only one type of European warrior had found his way
into the wilds of Tunisia: l’Orage had to be a Frenchman’s horse. Paul guessed
that, but his confirmation came when he first stood before her, wondering
himself if she would strike him before he could speak. His single word was
French, and with that single word, he knew she answered to only one
tongue—French. Not to the Tunisian or Berber or Arabic her previous masters
unsuccessfully tried, only to French. In combat after combat, she proved herself
to be, by far, one of the finest horses in the Legion stables."
from the beginning of the novel, you have a very short description of how Lt.
Bolang bought his horse l'Orage. The description itself tells you a lot about
the times, place, and people. It gives you a small window into the character of Lt. Bolang and
tells you about the languages and the problem of language in Tunisia. It lets
you know the feeling of the people for the Foreign Legion and the fact that
horses are still used in warfare at this time and in this place. This is a
method of using description to immerse the reader into the times and place and
to let them taste the culture and society. By the way, l'Orage means tempest or
thunderstorm in French and the description takes place right after a
thunderstorm in the desert and a tempest-like attack on Tunisian
Now an example of using conversation to immerse your reader in
the times and place. This is from Centurion, http://www.centurionnovel.com/.
“Where are you from, youngster?” Portius asked Abenadar.
from Natzeret in the Galil.”
“From Natzeret?” said Euodus. “Is the Primus now
accepting trash from the provinces?” Euodus was as fancy a man as Abenadar had
ever seen. His short hair was carefully shaped to form oiled ringlets in the
style of a Persian warrior. His face was angular but well made. He wore a
colorful tunic with pins and decorations all over it.
“No, I’m a Roman
citizen,” answered Abenadar.
Euodus smiled. “Another bastard child of Rome.
You are well placed in this century. We are all bastards of one type or
Portius laughed out loud, but Lupus protested, “I, for one, have a
family in Italia.”
“Yes, but does your family claim you?” riposted
“They will welcome me back when I am released from service.”
your throat is not cut first by these rebels, you may see Italia
Lupus rubbed his throat and made a face. “I wish you wouldn’t put it
like that, Euobus.”
“Don’t get carried away, Lupus,” said Portius. “The
people fear us.”
“Yes, they fear our blood will splatter their clothing when
they slit our throats.”
“Shut up, Euobus,” said Portius. “Come, Abenadar.
Don’t listen to his rambling. It is meaningless. As long as we stay together, we
are in little danger, and we’re always safe while in camp.”
for Abenadar, Portius walked out the door. Abenadar quickly followed behind him.
As Portius exited the barracks, Abenadar hurried to catch up. “The camp is huge.
How many legions does it hold?”
Portius chuckled. “It doesn’t hold even
Abenadar was shocked.
Portius noted Abenadar’s look and laughed
again. “That’s right. This camp holds only two cohorts: the I Cohort, Primus and
the X Cohort, Decimus—the first and the last in the III Gallica. Admittedly, the
Primus Cohort is the largest and best, but the Decimus isn’t a training cohort.
It isn’t made up of inexperienced recruits.” Portius glanced at Abenadar. “You
excepted. You will get along well if you can translate in the marketplace,
especially if you can speak with the barmaids and whores. I predict you will be
a very popular man in the Decimus Cohort.”
“How many men are in our cohort?”
“During your training, you will learn how the legion is
organized, but I guess I can start your education early. The Decimus Cohort is
formed of six centuries. They are called the Pilus Prior, the Pilus Posterior,
the Princeps Prior, the Princeps Posterior, the Hastatus Prior, and the Hastatus
Posterior. We are part of the Hastatus Posterior, the Lion Century. Each century
contains about 80 men. The men are organized into 10 columns of eight each. All
the other cohorts from the second to the tenth are put together the same way,
but the Primus Cohort is different.”
Here you can see in conversation, I give
you many details about the place, times, people, and the Roman Legion. In
conversation, Portius goes on to give Abenadar a host of information about the
Legions that the reader likely doesn't know and that Abenadar doesn't know. The
character and the reader both learn from the experience and the tones and
conversation tells you a lot about the fears of the Roman soldiers and their
Tomorrow, I'll conclude this series on writing Historical
Fiction and move to science fiction.
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.