Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Foray into Historical Fiction

So I've finally started a new novel! I'm writing historical fiction set during the 1950s, centered around the studio and star system. And maybe there will be a young!Elvis cameo later on in the decade. Possibly. Probably.

I mean, come on, look at him! So cute.*

More seriously, though, writing historical fiction has been an interesting challenge. Reading around, there seems to be two camps in terms of how much research you should do before attempting a novel set in a different time period. While I did some cursory investigating to familiarize myself with my era, there was plenty I didn't know going in. I'll be the first to admit that it probably would have behooved me to do a bit more research than I did, but I really don't think there's any way to anticipate everything you'll need to know while writing. Inevitably, you will have to stop and look up what sort of hairstyles were in vogue, what model of telephone was in use, whether or not your lady characters wore underpants beneath those pencil skirts. Those sorts of things that will probably not but wouldn't it be cool if it did? come up in Trivial Pursuit one day.

What year did they remove the 'LAND' from the HOLLYWOOD sign? 1949. Yes, I know that off the top of my head. No, that's not weird.

Ironically, it was this fear of being unprepared that prevented me from writing historical fiction for so long, contrary to my love of reading it. What I've found, though, is that I love learning about all of this stuff as I go along. Yes, it sometimes interrupts my writing when I have to stop and Google the odd historical fact, but it's a thrill to come across some neat piece of information that will lend authenticity to my book. It probably doesn't hurt that I'm a History major and adore learning new things about the past either.

Long story short, I'm having a ball with this novel. Although it's slow going, it's the most fun I've had in a long while, and I think I may have finally found a genre that fits me. Only time will tell!

* Yes, this is pretty much an excuse to put an Elvis picture on my blog. I regret nothing.

8 comments:

  1. It is a rare thing when you actually have the right occasion to use the word behoove, and it's such a wonderful word too. Lucky you.

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  2. @Chris - Haha, thank you! I try to give obscure words like behoove their fifteen seconds of fame from time to time. I am an equal opportunity diction lover. ;)

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  3. @CNHolmberg - Thanks, Chuck! ^^

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  4. Mm Elvis - that is a pretty good picture of him.
    1950s sounds awesome. I don't know much about it either, but I do love the music and aesthetics of that era. It's iconic in a way that still deeply affects pop culture today.
    Good luck with your story too!
    I've never done Historical Fiction myself, will maybe get into it sometime. i like the "alternate reality" aspect of it.
    -Maybelle

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  6. I never read much Historical Fiction, but it does have a similar immersive/otherworldly feel as Fantasy and Science Fiction.When I do read Historical Fiction though, I like seeing how the past concepts and ways of thinking intersect with the present, and how people are shaped by their cultural/social circumstances. Good luck with the writing!
    -Maybelle

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  7. @Maybelle -- Ooh, that's such a good point about past pre- and misconceptions about the world; it is very interesting to see how people's thinking changes over time. Historical settings also have the added 'wow, I can't believe things were actually like this!' factor that often makes it more interesting, knowing it was real. And thank you! The writing's going decently so far! =)

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