Saturday, July 13, 2013
Then and Now and What a Difference it Makes.
Today, I'm going to talk about what historical writers deal with in making their stories authentic while balancing that with writing for readers of today.
History: Is often subjective. In 1862, think of how a man from the north, one from the south, and a slave might describe what is happening. To one, they are putting down a rebellion. To the southerner, he's fighting for the cause. To the black man, he dreams of being set free. All accurate, but all a very different view of history in the making.
To make it harder - we have seen how our history books are being rewritten. The text book your grandchildren learn from is vastly different from the one's we learned from. Unfortunately, history is often rewritten by those with agendas. Facts are skewed to favor one's opinion. Good or bad, this can leave the writers of historical novels in a dilemma. Research is important but so are the credentials of the material used.
And then you have to match it with what the readers of this century believe to be true. LOL not always an easy task.
Geography: Just where are we? Especially in the territory days of our country. I set my book, Liberty Belle, in Denver in 1859. But it is not Denver, Colorado, but Denver in the Kansas territory. In 1845, parts of what is now Colorado were included in the Republic of Texas.
Click here for an interesting link to show the many different territories of our growing nation.
Flora and Fauna: While anyone living in Texas now knows all too well about fire ants and mesquite trees, it wasn't always so. Mesquite trees came north to Texas with the cattle from Mexico. Early Texas was free of the pesty trees. And Fire ants, the nasty pests are relatively knew to the area coming in the 1970s and 80s. Now something nastier called crazy ants are making their way through Texas. So just because an area has certain trees, flowers, or animals and pests now, doesn't make it so throughout history. Writers must balance their knowledge with an area's history and then write it for the readers of today.
Technology: This is one area that probably has the most changes. Just think how many thrillers and murder mysteries would be changed just by the invention of the cell phone. Kids of today don't know anything else. I was watching Matllock and they had a roll of film and negatives. How many young people would even know what those are?
In history, as we learned on an earlier post, soda pop, came into being long before most of us would think. Electricity was used earlier than most of us would think too. It's important to get the technology right. When did the railroad come to a town, the telegraph? I purposely set my book, Liberty Belle, in 1859 Denver so that there was no train or telegraph.
Words: Lastly, we have the very words authors use to tell their stories. It's important to make sure a word was used during the time period the story takes place. I have a dictionary that lists when a word came into use. Click here for an online dictionary that will tell when a word came into use
I purposely chose truck because we had a discussion on the loop about the word. As you can see it was used as early as the 1600s. Yet the truck of that time will make a very different picture in the minds of the reader of today. While the usage of the word truck in a historical novel set in the 1800s is technically correct, without explanation, it will jolt the reader of today who will picture a Chevy Silverado and not a wagon.
Once, I was going to have my character take a nosedive off her horse. I checked and sure enough the word was related to airplanes which had not yet been invented in my story.
Other words surprise you. I was sure Santa Anna enjoyed fajitas on his fight against the Texans. BUT no, fajita did not become a word until 1985. Surprise.
Hope you enjoyed the little lesson on the perils of writing authentic historicals and will appreciate the pains authors go to get it right and yet make their story understood by today's readers.
Yes, you can see my faithful pup enjoyed my blog ... well, maybe the heat got to him. : )
If the summer is getting to you and you need an adventure, you can find my book - Liberty Belle on Amazon. Just click here for an adventure.