Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 9 - The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow

Writing a modern setting is easy. Writing a setting in your own country is even easier. What do the houses look like? You live in one and you see plenty more everyday! How do they get from A to B? Car, public transport - the usual! How should they keep in contact? What, you mean if their iphone breaks?

Now go back a couple of hundred years. At first it doesn't seem so bad. You've read a lot of books from the era, and even more books set in the era. But what about the little things? What were the separation and divorce laws? When did gas-lighting and indoor plumbing become common? How much money is a lot? How fast do horses travel and how often did you have to rest them, and for how long? Would your character really have been aware of how to prevent conception using any method other than abstinence?

Writing historical romance, little things keep popping up at me that I had never even considered before. Presumably people wouldn't have used the word 'sadistic' before the writing of the Marquis de Sade (who apparently wasn't even a Marquis but a Count). Did the word 'evolution' have the same widespread usage before Charles Darwin? Little things we do and think everyday are so influenced by the thousands of years it has taken us to get to this point that we use language in our books that can be completely anachronistic. Some words couldn't have been used back then because they hadn't been conceived of yet, or because they had a different meaning.

If you want your historical fiction to be more than modern day people in fancy clothes, a writer really needs to think hard about what their characters are doing and saying. And sometimes this means your writing time is going to be eaten up by research.

(Pst, Julia! Was that just a really long-winded way of justifying why you haven't written much today?)

Why, yes. Yes it was.

Word Count: 1,727

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