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Research and characterization question

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Post by Michy » Sat August 28th, 2010, 2:24 am

[quote=""Russ Whitfield""]Works though, don't it. ;) [/quote]
Well, you may want to think about including a can of air freshener with each book, so as to help your readers endure all that research.
Last edited by Michy on Sat August 28th, 2010, 2:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Divia » Sat August 28th, 2010, 3:15 am

Dialogue is tricky. I could try to write in a victorian way, I would probably do pretty good at it, but would modern readers enjoy it? eh...who knows.

I dont have a problem getting into a character's head. They are/were could have been people like you and me. Emotions are all the same. The difference is when a charachter endorses slavery and then you have to be in that mindset. Set aside your righteous self at the door. It won't work here.

But Michelle and others are right. It doesnt matter how much you research someone will be there to tell you that you are wrong. You may or may not be wrong, but there are always arm chaired historians out there who know more than you do because they have watched The Civil War on the history channel and of course that trumps your degree or your countless hours studying the time period. :rolleyes:

My kickers would always get into a knot when I told someone I had a degree in history. Theywould whip out this little known fact about x amount of people who died during the Civil War during some unknown skirmish, as if I was dumb for not knowing that. Then I would look at them and say "Could you please tell me, in depth, about the unique relationship between slave women and their plantation mistresses and the ramifications of said union." They would look at me. Oh, I guess history just isnt about rambling off random dates or numbers. Hmmm, who would have thought.
Last edited by Divia on Sat August 28th, 2010, 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Sat August 28th, 2010, 8:43 am

Having read novels where the authors desperately try to replicate authentic speech patterns and found them just plain annoying...

I think you have to find a mean between the past and the present. Something that gives a feel for the era, but doesn't drag the whole thing down and mire it. Because today's reader generally expects a great deal more speed from his or her novel--we don't have three months of winter, with nothing to do but one person read a novel to the whole family by the light of one candle in the sitting room. (I say that with a certain degree of regret...)

That said, I find reading their diaries, letters and journals, but also (when possible) what was popular reading to them, of the greatest value in terms of writing their dialogue. It can be like learning to speak and think in another language--it will be their syntax, their grammar, that may most convey the differences between their speech and ours and encapsulate the era for you.

Dialogue is a tricky thing--many believe it's a replication of what people actually say/said. And often it is. But not really. Because like every other element in a successful novel, every bit of it contributes to the whole, and little of it is unnecessary. So it's not just the nothing conversations between me and my mates down the pub, or when we're out clearing the pastures of horse muck. It's got to have a reason for being in the novel--it must tell us something which is important--and sound natural. No small order, then. Ha ha.

With the research...if you would perhaps think of it like Chesterfield's recommendation about knowledge, keep it in your watchpocket, there, always ticking, but you don't need to flash it about to show you have a watch and bring it out only when you need to check the hour.

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Post by Russ Whitfield » Sat August 28th, 2010, 9:14 am

[quote=""Michy""]Well, you may want to think about including a can of air freshener with each book, so as to help your readers endure all that research.[/quote]

Now that's advice I should take - people have told me many times that my writing really stinks!

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Post by EC2 » Sat August 28th, 2010, 3:28 pm

I get into the mindset via several routes, some conventional, some not.
I read primary sources to get a feel and that doesn't just include chronicles of the period I study, but charters and names lists, and shopping lists (when they turn up) because they have a lot to say about society at the time.

I re-enact with Regia Anglorum http://www.regia.org/and have done so for 20 years now, because as MLE says, it gets you in close. It's one thing to read about details of daily life and to see artifacts in a museum, quite another thing to actually use replica artifacts and get the full sensory input.

As to the thoughts, feelings and emotions - I am a tad off the wall and use psychic research and then get what comes through in these sessions checked out by experts in my period of history (among them an archaeologist and a professor of 12th and 13thC medieval studies) for correctness of mindset and historical detail. I then blend this into the rest of the research.

Michelle, ain't it the truth with some people thinking that they know. (when often they only know what they've seen on popular crap telly and are not au fait with current research). I've had the anachronism finger pointed at me before now, concerning material that I can prove is fact. Although I do own up to giving the Angevins 3 lions on their shield before Cyprus!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal


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Post by Miss Moppet » Sat August 28th, 2010, 7:53 pm

[quote=""Divia""]Dialogue is tricky. I could try to write in a victorian way, I would probably do pretty good at it, but would modern readers enjoy it? eh...who knows.[/quote]

I think Victorian and Edwardian dialogue is in the Uncanny Valley - it's far closer to the way we talk than in Tudor or medieval times, but not that close. I actually have trouble reading C19 HF because of this - the dialogue always seems stilted and unreal somehow. If I were writing about this period myself I'd read novels of the time to see what the speech patterns were like - but then much of the slang would have to be avoided because readers won't know what it means. It's difficult.

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