The Genesis of a Novel – Research – Part II

Blog Party 1.jpg

GIVEAWAY!
Those that comment on my post will be eligible for a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate!  (location: New York, US)
*****
I have written five historical fiction novels so far, and am embarking on the sixth. I thought I’d bring everyone along on my journey as I do this one.
For information on my published works, including Legacy of Truth, which was just realeased July 6, 2016, please see the links below!
*****
The process of writing a novel is a scary mystery to most people. Sometimes including those that actually write novels! My own process is just one of thousands of processes, but here is a peek into my mad method.
This is a series of posts on writing novels. The first part of this series is here.
As I’ve delayed the next step – actually writing out my scene list – in favor of editing a previous manuscript, I’ve given my unconscious mind some time to percolate the story. I’ve worked out a few additional conflicts to add to my 2-page synopsis. I’ve combined a couple of the conflicts so they mesh together a bit better. I’ve done lots of additional research on the time period (12th century Ireland), and realized that I’ve actually read several books set in that time period by authors whose research I respect.  Ken Follett (Pillars of the Earth), Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe), and Ellis Peters (Brother Cadfael Mysteries) have written in that time period. That gives me some ‘flavor’ of the setting and how people lived.
For some people, anything prior to modern times is ‘ancient’ and there is little differentiation between those periods. For an historian, however, or an enthusiast of historical fiction, those differences are important. For instance, a noblewoman of 17th century France would wear a completely different costume than a nobelwoman in 12th century France.

And they are VERY different from a 21st century French noblewoman.

91ab29b12e3c8c9551455d7cc14d9ab5

 

When writing details of the time period, an author could research the different foods a character is eating (Pro tip: McDonald’s weren’t period!), clothing, the way they made their living, etc.

 

Speech and idiom is the hardest part. It’s a balancing act. Of course the 12th Century Irish character isn’t speaking anything resembling English. They aren’t even speaking modern Irish. They’re speaking middle Irish, and no one today outside of a few scholars would easily be able to read it. I certainly wouldn’t be able to write it. Even if it was in England, 12th century language is very different from today’s. If you doubt me, go read some Anglo-Norman works. English as a language didn’t exist – it was a proto-mix of German from the Anglo-Saxon peasants and French from the Norman nobles.

 

So we use mostly modern English in historical novels. But we can’t use pure modern English, as that would sound strange. Telling someone that the assassin was going to ‘pop a cap’ in his victim’s head just seems… wrong.

 

Most historical fiction authors sprinkle older words and phrases into modern English and try to limit the anachronisms to give a ‘flavor’ of the time. Sometimes this is easy – often it isn’t. It involves a lot of research, delving into resources such as Etymonline and historical theses.

 

Once you have written in a particular time period, of course, you get a feel for the language. You can just add a couple or words or phrases to your characters’ lexicon and the reader is transported to their time and place. Well, if you’ve done it well, that is.

 

There is always a danger of putting in TOO much flavor. Have you ever had a dish that was so heavily spiced that all you tasted was the seasoning, and not the food itself? Some writing ends up like that. Where you have to sound out the words on the page to make any sense of what was being said. I’ve seen some too-accurate Glasgow accents written this way. Or Cockney. Or deep south American. Just remember – less is more! And please don’t use phrases like “Avast ye, knavish varlet!”

 

Swearing is an area that is particularly difficult. A modern person swears differently than someone in the 18th century, 16th century, or the 5th century would. In the past, most swearing was religious in nature – ‘Zounds’, used liberally by Shakespeare, was short for ‘God’s Wounds’. Now, in a society less dominated by religion, we use words more related to physical body functions!

 

These are little things that must be kept in mind as you are writing your manuscript. Little but important. A glaring anachronism can push a reader right out of the story, and their suspense of disbelief shattered. Often small discrepancies can be forgiven (like rose madder being used to dye cloth in the 12th century when it didn’t become popular until the 13th). These are details only a historian or pedant will care about. Others, not so much (like horned helmets on Vikings). Don’t make your 12th century character a Baptist.

 

More parts:

 

 *****
I write historical fantasy novels, mostly set in Ireland, and a contemporary romance based on my parents’ 30-year search for true love. Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Better To Have Loved – Contemporary romance based on the true story of my parents’ 30-year search for love
– Legacy of Hunger – Historical fantasy set in 1846 Ireland
– Legacy of Truth – Historical fantasy set around 1800 Ireland. Prequel to Legacy of Hunger. Available now!
– Legacy of Luck – Historical fantasy set in 1745 Ireland and Scotland. Prequel to Legacy of Truth, tentative release date January, 2017!
– Stunning, Strange and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland
– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
More info at Green Dragon Artist :: Home ,
Christy Jackson Nicholas, Author , and
Tirgearr Publishing – Christy Nicholas
Green Dragon Artist Blog
Handmade at Amazon Store
Advertisements

I am an artist, accountant and author living in western New York, transplanted from Denmark, Michigan, Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania (in that order!) I love the beauty of the world and sharing it with others through jewelry, photography, digital painting and writing.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in History, Writing
145 comments on “The Genesis of a Novel – Research – Part II
  1. Linda Mims says:

    Hi Christy! Sorry I’m late to the party, but I’m glad I came. You make a lot of good points here. I’ve seen mistakes such as the ones you describe in historical fiction. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. As you say, the author didn’t research the period. Great blog! Hope you had a great Party!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Miranda L. says:

    These novels seem very interesting! Great blog post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kimwrtr says:

    Interesting. I love everything Irish. I have a book idea that leads back to an old Irish Witch’s curse. It’s a time travel. The heroine has to travel back to (haven’t decided on the year) to fix the present. I had the idea many years ago and have yet to begin it but have a synopsis I wrote so I wouldn’t forget it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. beemweeks says:

    An eye for detail is vital when writing historical fiction. A story will reflect the research if the author puts in the time. Those are the best stories. A fantastic post, Christy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Stopping by on the blog tour a tad late. I love how you explained the differences in history for those who view all things ancient and know little more than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing your process–it’s amazing how differently we all approach our writing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. apboustead says:

    Realy good advice
    Thank you
    To afrade of getting it wrong to try sorryr

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for taking the time to share your writing process with us. It’s a wonderful look at the “how to” of writing a book!

    You have a very nice blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations to STACI TROILO, the winner of a $10 Amazon gift card! Staci, please let me know what email you would like me to send the gift to 😀 You can email me at greendragon@bellsouth.net if you prefer. And thank you for being part of this!

    Like

  10. Shirley Harris-Slaughter says:

    I must have came in and out of this tour because I didn’t leave a comment, at least I didn’t see it. I remember reading the post but don’t know what happened. Anyway I’m here now. Better late than never.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. […] parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – Scenes […]

    Like

  12. […] parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Like

  13. […] the book and what the opening lines should best be. . More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Like

  14. […] I can throw out here? Oh, I know… Let it go!  . More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Like

  15. […] let it happen too often, or you’ll never finish! More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] addressed, and conquered. All hail the conquering hero! More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. […] . What are your favorite ways of battling procrastination? More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow me on Bookbub!
FOLLOW ME ON BOOKBUB!
Categories

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,515 other followers

Follow Christy Jackson Nicholas, Author and Artist on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: