When Your Books Can’t Escape the Past.
November 30, 2014
MY SERIES, the Velvet Shoe Collection, is set in the exciting, historical era of the 1920’s. I grew up overhearing the fascinating stories of the woman who was my grandmother and her escapades as a young girl, stunts so wild her parents arranged a marriage in an effort to tame her. Even though I heard those stories, there were still many gaps to fill in creating a fictional story based on her life. I wanted readers to get the flavor of such an incredible era, to feel transported back to a time when women’s roles were being redefined.
I did alot of research and found myself completely transfixed by the atomosphere in which people lived, especially in Detroit, Michgan during prohibition. I wanted to get it right. The internet has made it a little easier to do the research, but crafting a story set in another time is tricky business. So I put together a few ‘guidelines’, if you will, to keep me on track. Of course, when you write a romantic mystery, and add the flavor of history, you must watch out for all the pitfalls of each aspect. Those of you who write historical novels will recognize the list I keep by my desk.
Research the fashion of the day, men as well as women.
Get it right…brand names, hats, did they wear gloves? Even down to the underwear and shoes. Pull the reader into the era, make them ‘see’ your character in full regalia. Furniture, landscape, automobiles, trees of the region. All of these seemingly minor things put together a picture and feeds the imagination of the reader.
2. Study the political atomosphere of the day –
You might not feel this is important, but it is absolutely necessary for your characters to be plausible. The reactions they had in their time are not necessarily the reactions we see today. Make them real to the time they lived, even if it is uncomfortable now.
3. Resist too much back-story –
You may find it necessary to explain the era in which you are writing. Try hard to resist too much of this. Focus more on weaving back-story into the body of the main story. If you concentrate on the development of your character (s), you will reveal the flavor of the era without having to interrupt the reader to explain. The story needs to flow, even in a historical genre. It’s a craft, hone it.
4. Throw out the unimportant facts –
You’ve researched, scoured the internet for things of interest for your era. You’ve talked to people who live in the region, you’ve listened to stories of the past in which you have interest. Now, you must take all that wonderful research and discard most of it. Resist the temptation to ‘show’ your research in your story. If it doesn’t actually move the story forward or have relevance to your characters, you don’t need it. The value of all your research is that you were able to feel the emotion of the time, put yourself back there, give the reader a glimpse through your eyes and take them away to a land long ago
Please click the image at the top to read more about Patty Wiseman and her novels.