Today, author Tamera Lynn Kraft gives tips into immersing yourself in the era in which your story is set. -- Sandy
Tamera: Researching historicals is a lot of fun for those of us fortunate enough to write them, but they can also be challenging. The key is to make the history around the event a major part of the story without making the reader feel like she’s getting a history lesson. One of the greatest things a writer can do is to immerse herself in the time period she’s writing about.
Culture: Every era in history has a culture that is unique for that time period. For instance, a novella I wrote called Resurrection of Hope is set in rural America in 1919-1920. During that time period, modern conveniences were starting to make their way into the average household, but many rural farms still didn’t have running water or electricity. Silent movies and roller skating rinks were where most people went for entertainment. Fashion was all over the place. Older women wore dresses to their ankle and their long hair in buns. Young city women called flappers wore their skirts almost to their knees, cut their hair, and sometimes even wore make-up. Many of the women in that time were somewhere in between. It was a time of transition into a new modern era, but it wasn’t quite there.
I also wrote a novel that is due to be released next year called Alice’s Notions. Alice’s Notions was set in post World War 2 rural America. The twenty-five year gap between these two eras was great. During Alice’s Notions, only a few people still didn’t have running water, and almost everyone had a phone and an automobile. Women no longer worried about their reputations when they wore skirts almost to their knees, wore make-up, and cut their hair. It was accepted by then. Movies had sound and technicolor with larger than life stars like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.
Historical Events: The events that were going on during the time period you are writing about need to influence the characters in your story just as they did in that day. For instance, a story written during the post-World War 1 era would not be as effective and believable if it didn’t have at least a mention of the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Over 24 million people, some say as high as 50 million, died from the flu during that two year period. It killed more people than the Great War, and every family was affected.
If you’re writing a story set in the late 1860s or 1870s, you’ll need to include the Civil War in your story. Remember that even though the war was over, every family was affected by it in some way. It was still fresh in their memories and needs to be addressed. Whatever era you are writing in, brainstorm about the historical events that affected every day life.
Mindsets: Too many writers make the mistake of giving their characters a twenty-first century mindset. This is one of the easiest ways to make your characters unbelievable and to take the reader out of the era your story is about. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a career woman in the 1800s or a pacifist during World War 2, but if you have characters who defy the normal mores of that day, they need to have a reason for doing so.
I once wrote a novel set during the Civil War that had a female journalist who believed in women’s rights. I could get away with this because my main character was raised by a suffragette and graduated Oberlin College, the only coed college in the US before the Civil War that allowed both blacks and women to get college degrees and champion civil rights for both. Most of my other characters in this novel were surprised at best and hostile at worst by her choices. It worked because it was an unusual mindset that a certain group of people had during that time, but even with my main character’s strong opinions, she still behaved, dressed, and had the morals of a nineteenth century woman.
One way to get into the mindsets of the people in the era you are writing about is to read journals, newspaper articles, and magazine of the time. That will help you understand their frame of reference. What we consider outdated and antiquated thinking was to them reasonable and sensible for that day. Don’t explain away their modes of thinking and behavior. Write the characters as they were in that era, and let the reader take away what she will from it.
What means do you use to immerse yourself in your story, whether historical or contemporary?
Resurrection of HopeShe thought he was her knight in shining armor, but will a marriage of convenience prove her wrong?
After Vivian’s fiancé dies in the Great War, she thinks her life is over. But Henry, her fiancé’s best friend, comes to the rescue offering a marriage of convenience. He claims he promised his friend he would take care of her. She grows to love him, but she knows it will never work because he never shows any love for her.
Henry adores Vivian and has pledged to take care of her, but he won’t risk their friendship by letting her know. She’s still in love with the man who died in the Great War. He won’t risk heartache by revealing his true emotions.
Available at Desert Breeze on July 11: http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com/resurrection-of-hope-epub/
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You can contact Tamera online at these sites:
Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com