Thursday, September 24, 2015

PNWA 2015 Workshop Review # 8: Bringing the Past to Life

(Image from:  Writing Historical Novels; Being a Disciplined Author by Julian Stockwin)
My reading habits seem to suffer from a split-personality disorder.

On the one hand I love reading sci-fi and fantasy.  This taps in to my curiosity and wonderment about the future and different worlds.

On the other hand, history was my favorite subject during my K-12 years.  However, text books can be boring.  Sometime during my adolescent years I discovered exploits of Horatio Hornblower and Richard Bolitho, which got me hooked on historical fiction.

So I didn't think twice about attending this Bringing the Past to Life workshop immediately after attending one on sci-fi and fantasy. 

It's in my reading nature.

Anyway, the workshop was hosted by:

Dave Boling

Bharti Kirchner

Janet Oakley, and

Candace Robb

This workshop was an open panel discussion, much like the sci-fi workshop.  But instead of looking forward to the future, or different worlds, we examined the framework of the past and examined how to make stories fit into that framework.

Regarding this genre there's a few questions that you can ask yourself.

First off:  Could your story be classified as Historical Fiction?

Usually if the setting takes place 50 years or more in the past.  A setting earlier than this is considered more contemporary.

(Image from:  Pin Us, Brown Water Navy Vietnam)

Next, ask yourself:  Why have you been drawn to historical fiction?

It could be:

You have a personal connection to the past (ancestors who lived during a certain time).
Or, you have a desire to understand what it was like to live in the past.

Finally:  Can you bring meaning to historical moments?

To accomplish this you need to:

Immerse yourself in the time and culture.
Make sure everything in the story works within a specific time frame.

Remember:  History supplies the plot, you do the research and create a fictional family.
Also keep in mind that the past is more complex and sophisticated than people today realize.

To conduct effective research:

Utilize websites that end in "org," or "edu" (organization and education, respectively).
Seek advice from librarians, historical society members and museum personnel.
Put your story in a place you want to travel to--because you'll need to in order to give your story an element of authenticity.

To keep you motivated, choose a topic you're passionate about.
Try to create a "chills moment."  That is show the reader how rough life was in the past.

People, even within your own country, didn't talk the same way they do now.

(Image from:  All Posters, Captain Horatio Hornblower)

While you can't, or at least shouldn't, reproduce ancient speech patterns, you can use a similar format on how they addressed each other.
Use the proverbs, sayings and phrases that were common at the time.

No matter what you discover in your research, writing your story might seem like a struggle.

Just remember to keep at it--no matter how slow the going may seem.

(Image from:  Wikipedia entry on the USS Constitution)

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