August 2018 : Writing Historical Fiction

If y’all do not understand yin and yang. The dark in the light and the light in the dark…I can’t help you.

The reason that I became a HistFic writer was because I had SOOOOOO much to say that could not be told inside of a non-fic BOX.

I HAD to explore the entirety of human emotions inside real historical but with MY fictional twist characters.

Part F1RST.

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HISTORICAL FICTION,  OPINIONS,  RESEARCH,  WRITING

Historical Fiction: Research & Writing – Episode 1

Saturday, 4 August 2018, 7:48

My own personal views on the subject.

Researching and writing Historical Fiction, for me, is truly worthwhile and life-affirming.

I have read books all my life, both fiction and non-fiction and, whether hardback or paperback, these companions have travelled with me in and out of 22 different homes (I was born into an HM Forces family.) They have decorated floors, shelves, beds, chairs, tables, sideboards, cupboards, the side of the bath, kitchen counters, the hearth, the mantlepiece, the top of the cistern…what I’m saying is that I kinda live and breathe books and the information they contain.

So – this is a pretty good grounding for a writer/researcher of Historical Fiction, I guess.

Also good is an insatiable appetite for weird and wonderful facts. It can be very easy to read up on a subject and then say…’Brilliant. I now know all about that. Let’s start writing it up.’

Noooooooo!

Not only is this wrong, wrong, Wrong. It very sneakily leads us down the road so well-travelled that we end up walking arm-pit deep in a rut, spouting out tired old information with the same words just jiggled about a bit. That is unless you understand the simple fact that ALL history is PROPAGANDA.

SIDE NOTE:noun: propaganda; noun: Propagandai. information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

Aha! Biased and misleading. That means written by someone who a) knows the truth but
doesn’t want you to know it, b) someone who hasn’t a clue about the truth but just
believes the Primary Source without question.

Without Question

Another pointer to ‘How to do Historical Research.’ QUESTION EVERYTHING. Why? How? When? Where? Who? And …What in the bloody, blue-blazing hell did he/she do that for?

You see, Historical Research would be so much easier if there weren’t so many danged people in it. Dates and facts and natural disasters and whether the stirrup had been invented then are fine. It is those long dead people who can -and very often do- well and truly mess your all and everything up.

People

There’s nowt so queer as folk.

To research and write, we need to get a very good understanding of human nature. We can approach this task from many different angles. Through philosophy, psychology, astrology, people watching-ology, interaction-ology, curiosity-ology. And on and on. Your own nature will dictate the how/when/where bit.

I, personally like Astrology…Sagittarian since you ask. That annoying horse/person who gallops around shooting arrows all over the place whilst spouting their opinions (!) and shouting ‘I’m sooooo bored’ because I have a 3 second attention span.

Enneagrams are also brilliant. OK, since you asked so nicely. I am a 6 with strong 5 tendencies.

SIDE NOTE:

6
THE LOYALIST
The Committed, Security-Oriented Type:
Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious

5
THE INVESTIGATOR

The Intense, Cerebral Type:
Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated

In the sources, we will always and forever come up against a grand mix-up of dates, times, days, places, events. When writing fiction, the story should sort out the muddled and various by forcing us into making a decision and sticking to it. BUT – of even greater importance are the questions that we ask said sources. Why did he go there? She has never done that before…why did she do it then, when it was so completely out of character? He was usually abnormally brutal, so why did he show mercy at that moment? 

Why?

Why?

Human Nature is a very queer thing and a good understanding of it (including OUR OWN NATURE) can help us enormously.

Unconditional Belief

I learned very early on in my research days that I could be heavily influenced by the First book I read on any subject. Reading the same subject by a different author made me say…’Yes, but XYZ said the complete opposite and I prefer him to you.’

Then, on reading the 3rd, 4th, 5th author on the same subject, I’d throw my hands in the air and shout ‘DAMMIT ALL. I GIVE UP.’

No. I didn’t give up. I just learned to open my mind and then Choose My Own Version based on all the information gathered. This was an incredibly uplifting and powerful moment. Realising that my own opinion on the subject was also valid and valuable. 

Self- Confidence

I had a good education but never furthered it in the institutional arena. This writing and research stuff is all self-taught. For a very long time this bothered me. I’d never been taught how to research ‘properly.’ I didn’t know how to take notes ‘properly.’ Ergo – I was never going to be a ‘proper’ writer. I dabbled.

Then…time and life and death and good/bad experiences, age and unforeseeable circumstances changed everything.  Researching, writing, putting together stories became What I Do and what I love to do. And it dawned on me that no excuse in the world could alter that. Playing the Blame-Game became boring and tedious and took far too much energy. 

I still have a 3 second attention span, run around like a mad horse and then isolate myself in a room full of books but that’s me. 

And I am a WRITER of Historical Fiction.

Part 2 will follow…sometime…soonish

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Part S3cond.

HISTORICAL FICTION,  RESEARCH,  WRITING

Historical Fiction: Research & Writing – Episode 2

Sunday, 5 August 2018, 15:10

Let’s start this episode with Writing.

The physical act of typing/writing words on the screen/page.

I have a real weakness here. I’m a perfectionist. I will sit for ages re-arranging the words and punctuation in a sentence until I’m happy with it.

SIDE NOTE:

Was it Marcel Proust who spent a whole day rolling around the floor because he couldn’t find the right word?

Anyway, I often think of earlier writers who didn’t have the luxury of cut and paste or the Brilliant DELETE BUTTON.

Do you know how utterly Spoilt we are? Tippy tappy. Delete. Delete. More tippy tappy…ad infinitum.

What if we had a limited amount of paper and a limited amount of ink and (when the imagination goes *BOOM*) waiting weeks to get the library to send us the one and only book in our country. You know. that book we so desperately need to check whatever/whatever.

All hail the INTERNET.

The Internet 

Software!

I love, love writing software. And have tried just about every single model out there – paid and free. Oh, goody, says I. This programme will…make me write better/faster/cleverer/cleaner/in a more organised way/fill in the blank. It is so seductive. Throw the cheap pen and notebook away. Software programme ZYX will make the writing easier for you when you pay us ££$$££.

I’m not knocking the software. Truly. It has helped me in many a way and may well help you too. BUT..

I do have a problem with writing software.

You saw that coming, didn’t you?

Structure

Hands up all you’all who have heard of: The Three Act Structure. The Snowflake Method. The Hero’s Journey. Plot Points. Pinch Points. Grids. Climax. Rising action. Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs. The Wavey thing whose title I can’t remember right now.

I recommend that we learn all about these and everything else we can grab hold of.

Why?

Because…The one and only way to find out how YOUR brain works best when it comes to writing a book, is to read, listen to, inhale and absorb everything that has ever been written about writing. Watch youtube. Listen to podcasts. Read the books. Whatever genre you write in, find the authors who have How To books available. Do as much as you can to learn about writing.

And then FORGET IT ALL!

Forget it all?

OK. Maybe that is the wrong thing to say. But it caught your attention, yes?

Don’t forget it all. Park it. Take it into the back of your head and let every word stew for a while.

No word ever read is ever wasted.

We have this outrageously complicated but incredible organ in our bodies called the BRAIN. We may not know (or in my case – haven’t a clue) how the brain does its thing, but it does it and we need to trust whatever this it is.

Yes, the brain has attitude. It won’t give you what you want, exactly when you want it, but. Hey, go with that.

SIDE NOTE:

Every night Robert Louis Stevenson went to bed and gave all of his story problems over to the Brownies – Scottish Little People or Fairies. He absolutely trusted his brain (or the Brownies) to give him answers. Jekyll and Hyde anyone?

KNOW the RULES before you even think about attempting to BREAK the RULES.

All the writing software available today has been devised, programmed and sold by other people. No matter how brilliant these people are – they do not know how YOUR BRAIN works. Most of us don’t even know how our brain works. And if you do – Whay-hay. You lucky @£^%

I have done all of the above and it has taught me – COUNTLESS TIMES – that my brain has its own unique structure. After years of thinking that I must be some kind of freak because I couldn’t get on with/master/understand most of this wonderful software, I finally decided to DO IT MY WAY.

Do it Your Way

I still take notes long-hand. It works for me. I know about the Three Act Structure. It works for me. Beginning. Middle. End. Yes! But telling me that fiction has to have 28 chapters. Each chapter has to be no more than 5 pages long. The Mentor has to show up at XYZ time. That does not work for me.

SIDE NOTE: 

The Hero’s Journey way of writing is a wonderful thing but…it was first constructed from the outside in. The Odyssey was not written using this structure. This structure was fitted around the story. Just a little thought!

Episode 3 coming soon.

(Good Grief. This was meant to be a single post but I seem to have lots of opinions here.)

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I DID EVERYTHING DANG THING MY WAY and got shot down in flames.

Much imitated. NEVER surpassed. Heyho :o)

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