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Louise's current project is to make all her sweet romances available on the internet.
Look out for her new Regency romance, Regency Fortune, coming soon!


Friday, 20 February 2009

Writing Historical Fiction

Another out of print book. I don't think the advice dates. Although I've compressed the notes I took, they still seem relevant and helpful.

Martin is quite interesting about negative space. In Kabuki, for example, the moments where the rapid action stops and the actors hold the pose and freeze have the effect of impressing that moment on the mind and making the action sharper. Or, if you think of the way painters use shadows to highlight the foreground and figures. Scenes of high drama and deep emotion need moments of comparative tranquility to give them emphasis. The RAP RAP RAP of fast action can be wearing. In moments of extreme stress, tiny details such as a flower, a touch, a smell do take on significance, and can balance the pace.

Martin talks about the reasons for setting a story in the past - and I think she's right in saying that the only good reason is that the story couldn't have happened anywhere else. The past is great for romances because the hardest thing is to find good reasons why two gorgeous people who are absolutely made for one another stay apart for a whole book. There were so many barriers in the past that have now fallen: class, divorce, wars, politics, especially family feuds and acceptable behaviour for women. Class still exists of course. In the reality TV programme Undercover Princes the prince from Sri Lanka had to marry a bride from a noble background so he ditched the girl he'd been dating. What a sap! I could have written a much better ending than that!

Anachronisms. When I wrote a Black Lace novel, The Barbarian Geisha, set in historical Japan, I got Andy to proof read before it went to the publisher because he has the kind of logical mind that spots extras wearing watches in historical movies. I had committed all kinds of howlers: the heroine let off steam, and felt as if she were standing behind a pane of glass. She jogged along the beach. People feared germs. Pluto got a mention. It's very difficult to remember what your heroine couldn't have known.

Good advice is to keep an eye on realities of time within your created past. Think of cycles of the moon, how hard it would be to travel in winter, and characters ageing. I read Jane Eyre & Tess of the Dubervilles as part of my college course and became fascinated by how important natural light was to them. We are blinded by electricity - but back then they noticed Jupiter shining 'yellow like a jonquil' and the exact moment when the candles had to be lit. Balls were planned around a full moon so people could travel more easily. Everything was planned around available light.

Martin talks about describing your characters right away so you don't annoy readers who formed a different picture, and mentions the tension between what the characters say, and what they truly think (the scene in Annie Hall where they are chatting one another up with cartoon captions of their true thoughts above their heads has to be the best example of this?) Then there's a few snippets on revealing character, how to handle infodumps and choreography. Overall, a useful book.

1 comment:

Jen Black said...

There's a Mel Gibson film that has him hearing what women say and what they actually think - very funny, and also illustrates your point? Funnily enough I'vce made a point about light and firelighting in my latest!