Thursday, January 29, 2009

Historical Fiction Workshop

Well, Homer is still exceedingly cute, and I really haven't forgotten about the next recipe (I've just been writing madly on ECHO; I mean it when I describe this stage as the Final Frenzy; I do precious little else!).

However, I do have to pause for a bit here, because a year or so ago, I agreed to teach a two-and-a-half hour workshop on Writing Historical Fiction, as part of a week of such workshops sponsored by a local group called Arizona Authors. (At the time, of course, I had no idea the FF was going to hit _now_).

Anyway--thought I'd ask, for any of you who might harbor ambitions (or merely curiosity) in this regard, whether there are any specific questions _you'd_ like answered, if you were taking such a workshop, or any particular material you'd like to see covered?

I think we may do a minor bit of writing in the class--can't do too much, as it takes quite a bit of time, but I'm thinking a few paragraphs might be fun; any topics that you'd suggest? (E.g., introduction of a major character, setting a historical background, etc.?)

59 comments:

  1. argh, i hate it when that happens. I posted a comment and it got lost in cyberspace and now I have to reconstruct it!

    Anyhoo... what I'm wondering is how much a writer needs to steep themselves in the era they're going to write, before the start.
    For example, if one were to write about the 1850s would it be necessary to know precisely what length skirts were worn at? Or for a story set in the 1950s, how much would the writer need to know (almost on an instinctive level, I guess) about the fashions, the technology, the car styles of the era?
    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm curious about different types of terms/phrases/jargon that were used during different periods and how to incorporate them into the writing, while still keeping the flow of the text and not losing the reader. What is a good meathod to balance the common phrases/sayings/words with the "read-ability"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would be curious to hear your comments on the conflict/paradox/friction of writing in a context of a particular time period with different social mores, expectations to one's own. How do you make your characters authentic to the time (their behaviour, thought processes)without compromising their appeal to today's audience. Not sure if I explained that very well. Um.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like Jen, I find the research part of writing very interesting and intriguing. I imagine your office, Diana, covered with hundreds of multi-colored stickies with bits of info pertinent to people and places. It has always amazed me that you had not even been to Scotland when you wrote Outlander -- at least that's what I've read -- and your descriptions were so very accurate. And when you look at the span of subjects, times, and personalities of the six, almost seven large novels, the three Lord John books, and the various other work you've done, it's truly amazing to me; the research alone would seem to take a lifetime!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't mind you not posting recently at all, it all brings us closer to the book!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Research is all well and good, but for me it's getting started that's the hard part. Where do I go first? What do I do first? If I'm stuck, what can I do to get un-stuck? Also, since you write in first-person, everything Claire sees and does is given to the reader (that's one of the reasons your novels are so deliciously long I think). How do you modify the level of detail from a third-person point of view, like Jaime or Brianna? What, if anything, is allowed to remain somewhat modern in order not to confuse the reader? I can also see dialogue being an issue - how much of a focus do you put on what words would have been known then and what words haven't? Do you take it seriously or just ignore it because it involves too much work? And yes, there is research. How much do I put in? I want it to be entertaining, so how do I present that research without sounding like a textbook?

    I'm beginning to think I should take this workshop. :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would love to learn a differnet way of researching a historical novel.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I only wish that you were doing that class where I live. I'd take it in a heart beat.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am a business person and I have written technical papers for years. I love history and would love to write a historical novel. How do I evaluate my writing skills to know if I have what it takes to 1). Write a novel and 2). Create an entertaining story.

    Does that question disqualify me before I even get started or can anyone do it. I mean, do you just know that you know that you can - and do it?

    I have a community college across the street, maybe that would be a good start - or an excuse to put it off for another semester.

    Thanks to "mstoldt" - I had those same questions.

    Hmmm... I fall in line behind the others, maybe all of us should enroll in that class.

    Your very cool Diana, I have a lot of respect for you, your talents and your intelligence.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I WISH you were coming to my hometown to do this! Arizona is one state too far away...any chance - even minuscule - that you may be doing something like this in Los Angeles in the future? At all?

    GOOD LUCK with the final rush on ECHO!

    ReplyDelete
  12. How exciting ! If only I was a bit closer (about 3000 miles closer) I'd definately sign up for that course.

    I've done a bit of writing for my own pleasure since highschool and my biggest frustration was the deadly (cue ominous music) "writers block".

    I'd love to have a few coping techniques to deal with the stress as you work thru the block.

    ReplyDelete
  13. To Jen:
    I find before I hit send on anything I always copy and paste it into notepad "just incase". It has saved me a thousand times : )

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dear Jen--

    It kind of depends, is the answer. [g] I.e., you _do_ need to know a lot about the details of daily living in your era, but a) it isn't necessary to "steep yourself" _before_ writing the story (you can do it as you go; that's what I do), and b) _which_ details you use depend on the type of story you're telling, and who/what your main character is like.

    I.e., if your main character is a midwife, you'd better know _something_ about ways and means of childbirth in your period [g]; if he's a banker, you can probably get along knowing nothing whatever about birthing stools.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dear Elizabeth--

    Well, I'm afraid there's no method, as such. It's just a combination of common sense and developing a good "ear" for the rhythms of speech.

    That said, there _are_ "rules" (i.e., observable patterns) for writing dialogue in general (I posted these recently in the "Research and Craft" folder of the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum, in a thread titled "Short story dialog"), and you can use those as a general guideline, adding specialized terms and forms as they seem suitable (and preferably in such a way as to make their meaning clear by context, if you don't have a handy time-traveler around to ask what they mean. [g]).

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dear Penny--

    Oh, sure you are; you mean how do you handle the notion of political correctness.

    Personally, I ignore it. Yes, you do get the occasional modern reader who simply can't grasp the idea that things Have Not Always Been as They Are Now, but a) you can't write for the lowest common denominator, or you will get sludge, and b) it's your job as a historical novelist to enlighten such unfortunately ill-educated persons.

    It is _not_ the job of a historical novelist to readjust the past in order to avoid making readers think.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear Deb--

    Thank you! It's true that there's always more you could find out--but that's part of the charm of it. [g]

    (Actually, most of my research is either in my head or in the original books in which I found it; I keep the specific books that I've found most useful/necessary to a given novel close at hand, but I really don't use Post-its, except to write down addresses for the Elf (the nice person whom my husband and I share, who does our bookkeeping, gets the cars washed and hauls stuff to the post-office (if it were left up to me, nobody would ever get _anyhing_).

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dear ms--

    Yes, you probably should. [g]

    All good questions, though too involved for me to answer here. I _will_ be posting stuff from/for the workshop on Compuserve, though, over the next week or so.

    The basic answer, though, is that it comes down to character. All good stories depend on the central character: who he or she is, what s/he wants, and how s/he changes in response to what happens.

    The shape of the story, as well as what the characters say and how they say it, depends on your grasp of this person's nature and life.

    As for ignoring something because it's too much work...I was about to indignantly denounce the very idea, but in fact, I don't look up the phases of the moon on specific dates in my novels, because it _is_ too much work for the benefit derived. [g]

    ReplyDelete
  19. Dear C. Clark--

    A different way than _what_?

    (I did, in fact, teach an 8-hour seminar on "Research" last year, and in the fullness of time--i.e., sometime after I finish ECHO [g]--will probably write up something about it.)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dear Rosemary--

    Well, the simple (and true) answer is that you won't know unless you try. And I _will_ tell you that if you start doing something, you may or may not be good at it right off--but if you keep doing it, you _will_ get better. [g]

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Dear Nathalie--

    Well, people invite me to do this sort of thing every so often; I did a 6-hour version some years ago for...some university in Utah, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dear Nadine--

    Well, on the one hand, the horrible truth is that the only way through writer's block is to write.

    On the other hand, the simple (thus relatively easy [g]) truth is that that's how you break a writer's block--you just write _anyway_.

    (Pst. You don't have to know what happens or how, before you start to write.)

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm aware that some people write from an outline. I'm also aware you write in big lumps and then paste them together somehow.

    I think it would be an interesting exercise to be given 2 lumps (not me, somebody else) and paste them together. Of course, that's after you explain how to paste.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Gator--

    That's not really the way it works. [g] I _can_ show you how I do it, but it's really space- and time-consuming, and I'm just off to a doctor's appointment right now.

    I did it sometime last year on Compuserve--it was a thread titled "Swamp Shots," if I recall. If I have time (probably late tomorrow--I'll be moving pretty rapidly between now and then), I'll try to dig it up and post a link.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Diana,
    It's a shame I don't live in Arizona, or I would sign up. It sounds very interesting, to say the least.

    And I KNEW there had to be something you weren't fanatical about in terms of historical accuracy. Does that mean you actually look at every a character from the past says and verify that yes, the word existed and was used in that way? I'm very curious about that.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello Diana, I think I found the link to the swamp shots (I had some free time, so I search a bit).
    http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-books&tid=57892

    Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi, Diana and blog readers,

    I have been lurking waaay too long, so forgive what will seem like a string of non-sequiturs as I catch up a bit.

    1. To the immediate workshop, does your editor have to know the period, or does she rely on you to catch anachronisms? Do you care if there are anachronisms in the text?

    2. Congratulations on Homer – he’s adorable! Was deeply sorry to hear about Molly; it puts life and love in perspective when a furry friend passes.

    3. Although it may not be biologically risky to sit on public toilets, look around DMV or a high school football game crowd some time: do you really want to rub bare butts with all these people? It’s socially acceptable and easy to go wash your hand after shaking a stranger’s; not so for tushies. Besides, fitness people tell us to build exercise into our days, so bend...and hold…

    4. When will we see more pics from the graphic novel? The few we’ve seen are lovely. (Although in my mind’s eye, Claire has curly hair, like with actual curls and twists, although not quite up to “Jew-fro” oscillations. The drawing doesn’t quite fit your descriptions; I just can’t picture such soft, demure waves exploding and rioting.)

    Whew! Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts and experiences in this forum.

    ReplyDelete
  28. this is sorta off topic but, i was wondering since youre in the last phase of echo how long does it usually take 'em to get from finished manuscript to on the book shelf?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Diana:

    "It is _not_ the job of a historical novelist to readjust the past in order to avoid making readers think."

    I just saw this comment and it made me laugh out loud. All I can say is, thank God there are SOME authors out there who recognize that. <g>

    Though if somebody had told me when I first found your books, just how MUCH thinking I was going to end up doing, I would never have believed it....

    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  30. Dear Rachel--

    Well, they _can_ do it in about six weeks, if they have to. [g] But they really, really don't like to have to. Aside from the nervous strain, it's very expensive to have to do "crunch" production like that. They'd _like_ a year's lead time, but can manage with less, if they have adequate warning. So we do try to give them as much time as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Diana! Well, I just have to borrow the LA teenagers' phraseology (and please excuse my quite untethered exuberance right now) and say...OMG!!!! You are going to teach a class? You are getting back in the classroom? Hurray for all of us! Diana, _please_, _please_, _please_ do a live video steam for all of us who do not leave in your fair state; you know this is going to be tremendous once it gets out there that you are offering a writing class in person. With a fair amount of IT support, it could be done pretty easily, and hosted on your site (with extra bandwith). Please consider this request; your readers would be over the moon!

    Thank you,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  33. i think i would be a bit "moony" about this class myself. cant wait to see what comes of that idea :}

    although my writing skills are zero i still love it.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Well, it's just a one-off--a 2 1/2 hour workshop that I was asked to do as a fund-raiser for a state/local author's group. I.e., it's not all _that_ organized [g], let alone an ongoing thing. (I do this kind of thing every year at the Surrey Writers Conference, btw, for folk that are interested. Different topics, but I usually teach at least a couple of different workshops, as well as doing panels and the odd keynote.)

    I'll see what I can do about perhaps pod-casting or web-camming some of this--but I can't even _think_ about it until I finish ECHO.

    ReplyDelete
  35. My question is similar to Jen's, about how much you steep before you start. You answered part of that question, of how much you need to know. But do you do most of your research as you go along, or do you do it beforehand? Or, I suppose, a mixture of both?

    I know writing is work, and not just a gift. But looking at what you have accomplished over these books truly seems a gift to me, even knowing how much work you have poured into them. My husband can't even put them down, and he reads more nonfiction than fiction usually. Your books do make us think, so thanks for inspiring some fascinating conversations.

    ReplyDelete
  36. [DG] "you can't write for the lowest common denominator, or you will get sludge"

    [Nancy] Interestingly, the first time a piece of Outlandish dialogue seemed awkwardly "out of time" to me, it was in the wedding night scene in Outlander, where Jamie indignantly tells Claire that he'd never sleep with a woman before marrying her--does she think his principles represent the lowest common denominator?

    That one sent me to Google, to learn that "LCD" is about 3000 years old, as a recognized concept, if not part of daily speech. For an educated man, then...OK.

    I am currently a book set in 1125 (or thereabouts). The author has stripped the dialogue of colloquialisms but the thinking under the language often seems too modern to me--phrases like "he owes us a favor," for example. Of course, it would be difficult to transpose middle English and Norman French into anything comprehensible to the modern reader, so the dialogue doesn't do much more than move the plot forward.

    Is that why you chose to write about the 18th century, where you at least have ample examples of written dialogue?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi Diana!
    Like most of the posters, I wish I lived closer to that workshop, but since I live in Argentina, I'm sort of used to miss all the fun! (g)

    My question is about "conflict" in writing. I've noticed that most novels have one huge conflict somewhere around which the whole plot evolves. Your books have the BIG conflict, but also lots and lots of different and smaller crisis... I love that about them, it's part of what makes them real! But I'm rambling... Back to the qestion.

    What makes you think about a conflict and say "oh... this will be good" or "mmmm... nah... not so interesting"?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Dear Nancy--

    An educated man in the 18th century would be well up on the basics of mathematics (let alone simple arithmetic [g]) through geometry and trigonometry; mathematics was part of the quadrivium (a medieval concept of the necessary structure of a thorough education, but one whose influence remained through the early Enlightenment). (see link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadrivium )

    "Lowest common denominator" would indeed be an everyday concept to a "gentleman" of the period--and in fact, I used that expression because it _was_ appropriate to the period, in a way that something like, "I don't act like a lowlife" wouldn't have been. [g] Particularly since Jamie's being quite formal in the early parts of the evening. [cough]

    (Interesting to note, btw, that music would have been an important part of his studies during his time at the university in Paris--and at that point in his life, he still had the capacity to hear and comprehend music.)

    ReplyDelete
  39. Dear Mari--

    Conflict? Hmm. Well, some conflicts are obviously interesting--battles, wars, that sort of thing. [g] But _any_ human interaction (including one's struggle with the self) carries the seeds of conflict; you just decide whether and when to let those seeds flower.

    As to "what's interesting?"--that's entirely a judgement call; there aren't any rules about it. What's fascinating to some folk won't interest others at all; _vide_ romance novels, in which the conflict of an evolving relationship is the primary focus for most (largely female) readers, and doesn't interest other (often male) readers at all.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi, Diana:

    I think it would be helpful in a workshop to learn how to pick which period would be the best complement to the story. Perhaps you could also give tips on how to tweak your story idea to better fit the era you have your heart set on.

    If I were to take your workshop, I would also like to learn how to look all around- fiction, encyclopedias, maps, menus, architectural details, speaking to our elders etc to extract the flavor of the time and the personality traits of people. I don't think many folks realize that history isn't just in history books or fiction. Sometimes it's more fun to go on a timeline scavenger hunt in museums, junk stores or your grandma's garage!

    Thanks for asking our opinions, Diana, it's fun to make a forum of it and help if we can!

    ReplyDelete
  41. One thing I've always been told is 'write what you know'. I'm sure other wanna-be published writers have heard this too. There you were, Diana, writing about a place you hadn't been (Scotland), and you can't have 'known' life in the 18th century.

    I guess my question is what do you think of the 'write what you know' rule and what would you say to us about that rule?

    ReplyDelete
  42. Dear Renee--

    I think it's nonsense. But I also think it's mis-stated; it _should_ say, "Don't write what you _don't_ know." But you can find out just about anything you need to.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Dear Mary-Allison--

    I haven't got the slightest idea how you'd pick a period--but I also can't visualize how you'd have a story that existed independently of a period and needed to be inserted into one, either. (Mind, I _started_ with nothing but "Scotland, eighteenth century" in mind--and the rather vague images conjured up by the notion of a man in a kilt. [g]

    Other folk might be more organized!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Re: Jamie's inability to hear and comprehend music--

    Without going off on a rant here (or just a tiny, modest rant)--The most maddening and depressingly frequent claim that music teachers hear is "I can't sing." Sometimes, this comes in the form of the tune and the bucket (the auditory equivalent of art and the straight line). And people are so pleased to tell you that they can't sing! (You have to wonder--why aren't people out there cheerfully declaring "I can't read?" )

    Everyone who can speak can sing. Singing is nothing more than extended speech, with pitch and rhythm. The conceit of the "good voice," or a skill limited to those with "talent," is recent and culturally driven by exposure to the idea that only people who can do things very well should attempt to do them in public. Enter the American Idol.

    Returning to history--people sang themselves across the prairie, without worrying about whether anyone would laugh at their singing. Singing was a way to communicate, pass on stories, bond. Sure, there are trained singers whose performances are more pleasing than the kids on the camp bus. But singing is what we were meant to do, as human beings.

    Thus--I was glad to realize that Jamie was brain-damaged, not just falsely modest. (laughing) Did you research the kind of injury (corpus callosum?) that would cause inability to hear pitch?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Nancy -

    What about someone who can hear music perfectly well (he's actually a rather accomplished guitar player, and has more or less taught himself to play piano), can hear when something is in tune or out of tune, but who cannot make his voice mimic the pitch?

    It's not that his voice is "bad" or "good" - it just refuses to do what he wants it to do.

    I myself have a very low voice for a woman, and while I have a hard time singing many songs because of this (never learned anything musical, so I have to do it by "ear"), I can usually pitch the song lower and do a perfectly adequate job of it.

    He can't.

    Why is this?

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hey, Honey.

    You have just described half the boys in my 7th grade choir. It's not uncommon for people to have difficulty matching pitches with their voice, especially when they're feeling social discomfort. This is where the "I'm good singing in the shower" idea comes from.

    After years of not exercising the ability to move the voice where you want it to go, it's hard (and embarrassing) to relax and train it to do so. Most people just say "I can't" and let it go. But anyone with adequate hearing and functional vocal chords can--at the very least--get better at matching pitches.

    Little kids are often wildly off pitch when they begin to sing, but with practice (that's the other essential component) they learn to, as the saying goes, carry a tune reasonably well. Then they hit the 5th grade and discover that only Clay Aiken can sing, and they should just shut up or risk being labeled.

    When you spend a lot of time singing, your pitch range expands, and technical training (learning to sing "in your head") can expand it even further. The coloratura soprano in the opera may have a naturally high voice, but the fireworks at the top end come from training. Many women believe they have a naturally low voice (think Cher) when in fact, a few lessons might make them discover notes they never thought they could hit. Pop songs are often pitched in a low, narrow range (the epitome of this is Britney Spears' repertoire), because pop singing style tends to use the "chest" voice. If you can sing well by starting a little lower--go for it. I'm happy to hear that you're singing!

    Someone who can't perceive pitch at all--like Jamie-- must have some auditory dysfunction.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Thanks Nancy!

    I am most comfortable singing the men's parts in most songs, but occasionally I can get an alto. My mother is exactly the same way, so it must run in the family.

    I'm thinking you're right about a perceived mental block on singing. Because when he (he of the aforementioned singing inability, also known as my boyfriend) sings his own stuff (songs he's written), he's much much better than when he's singing along with the radio.

    Makes it difficult to sing along with him in the car, tho....if he overwhelms the radio, I can't sing because I pitch myself to whatever or whomever I hear best.

    Also reasons why I can't sit next to a soprano in church. Or if I do, I have to really concentrate to bring it down an octave.

    ::sigh::

    ReplyDelete
  48. Note to Nancy--
    I know what you mean about "learning" to sing. My three siblings and I have always sung together and in school/church choirs but none of us has ever had formal music education. I always thought I had a "nice" voice but nothing to rave about -- or even sing solo with. Recently I joined a small community choir in my city directed by an incredible young musician, and through her tutelage I have learned so much about how to use my voice correctly, which in turn has increased my range, quality, tone, et cetera. And learning to breathe correctly for singing has improved other activities as well... hiking and swimming too!

    ReplyDelete
  49. dear Diana; I like your books and I am a faithful reader; I am French Best regards christine (I hope that the translation is correct)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Dear Diana,

    Sorry if this is irrelevant, but I recently read that you will be on a book tour, and you mentioned Canada (where I live). Can you please tell me the exact location, because my mom and I would love to be there.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Dear Shara--

    Um. If you read it on my website, keep reading. [g] Until you get to the part that says I won't have an itinerary until the various publishers give them to me--that will be sometime much closer to pub date--and that once I _do_ have any specifics, I'll be sure to post them.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I wish you would do one in Boston. My question would be how do you effectively handle the arc of the whole series? I have a historical fantasy trilogy coming out from Scholastic and though I know the beginning and the end, the middle has become more than a challenge!

    Kat

    ReplyDelete
  53. Dear Kat--

    Well, the simple truth is that a) I don't know [g], and b) to some extent, it's the historical events that dictate the arc(s) of the story--i.e., in this series, at least, the first three books are defined (in terms of history) by the Jacobite Rising: OUTLANDER deals with Scotland in the lead-up to that war, DRAGONFLY is _about_ the Rising and how it affected both the story's characters and Scotland itself--and VOYAGER deals with the lingering aftermath of that upheaval, which not only destroyed the Scottish Highland culture, but scattered shards of it all over the world.

    The second part of the series then deals with the American Revolution--echoing and amplifying the earlier war. Many, many Highland Scots (and "Scotch-Irish"--these being Scots who had emigrated to Ulster in the previous century) fought in the Revolution, and we see the contrast of ideals between that war and the earlier one--how people fought by choice and from commitment, rather than by obligation and necessity, and what they were fighting _for_: individual liberty and God-given right, rather than to put a particular king on the throne.

    That's oversimplifying, of course--and taking no account of the _personal_ arcs of the characters within the story--but the historical arcs are at least one major strand of the structure of the series.

    Don't know if that might be helpful to you, but fwiw.

    ReplyDelete
  54. HI Diana!
    I LOVE writing historical fiction (which I never thought I'd even think of doing until after I became dangerously obsessed with your novels) and - this came as a shock to everyone, especially me - I truly enjoy researching the period. I have done some reading, but I find that incredibly dry most of the time. So ... my main sources have been Historical Re-enactors/Anachronists. You know, those people who are even more obsessed than I am about getting every-single-thing-right? The problem I have is that many of the "actors" in different groups have different answers to my questions (i.e. saddles/no saddles, blade lengths, etc). So I battle through and either go with Majority Rules or ... This Sounds Better.

    I wanted to find out about titles, i.e. Milord/Milady, My Lord, etc ... who used what, when and to whom? I never could get anything useful on that one.

    May I please put in a very big, strong vote for a podcast on your class? (I know you won't know until after the FF, but I thought I'd place a vote anyway)

    My stories seem to flow from themselves ... how do you know that you have 2 more Outlanders and then a 3 book prequel? Do you know the outcome(s) ahead of time?

    I've always wondered ... when Sara/Rosina bumped into your characters, how did you feel about that? I've been SO tempted to do that in my first novel.

    Thanks for all you do. You're an inspiration! I hope your tour brings you to Nova Scotia this time.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Dear Genevieve--

    Well, let's see...

    Rosina/Sara is a friend I knew on Compuserve lo, these many years back. She was writing her first book at the time, and those of us who were writers all tended to discuss what we were doing. I'd mentioned at some point that I intended to deal with the battle of Saratoga in a future book (though I didn't know at the time how _far_ in the future [wry g]), and some time later, Rosina emailed me privately with a brief scene she'd written, in which one of her characters--speaking twenty years after the battle (her book is set in the 1790's, I believe)--is recollecting a minor incident that happened then, in which a woman known as "the White Witch" came across the lines with her husband, Colonel Fraser and her husband's nephew, and took care of a little boy who was sick.

    (That's it. She isn't "using" Claire and Jamie as characters; they don't speak or do anything _in_ her story; they're just referred to by one of her characters. The whole mention occupies perhaps two paragraphs, if that.)

    Anyway, she showed me the scene and said she'd done it on an impulse, but wouldn't include the scene if I had any objection. I laughed and said--since she wasn't in fact "using" my characters, but only mentioning them as though they were real historical people of the period--that I thought it was fine; go ahead and see whether anybody noticed.

    Anyway, about titles--British titles, anyway--there's a helpful book called FORMS OF ADDRESS, which lists all the ranks of British nobility (and their wives and children) and tells you how to refer to the wife of a Marquis, or what the second son of a duke's title is, versus the title for the daughter of an earl. I'm not where my books are at the moment, so can't give you the specific publishing information, but if you remind me in a couple of weeks, when I can get back in my office (it's being remodeled at the moment, and I can't get at any of my books. argh), I'll get that for you.

    ReplyDelete
  56. P.S. No, I have no idea what's going to happen in the books, and I don't plan them out ahead of time. (I also _don't_ have "a 3 book prequel"--there's just one novel, composed of three novellas; or at least that's what I think right now. Could be different, when I come to write it. [g])

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi again, Diana

    Is this the book to which you were referring?
    http://www.formsofaddress.info/

    Look what I found while I was googling that:
    http://www.irishroots.com/id4276.htm
    cool, huh?

    I hope your office renos are coming along well. There's nothing like dry wall and dust to clog up the creative juices, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  58. When going back in time, say before 1300, when we really don't know what normal conversation sounded like, how much do you depend on modern (c. 1700 and later) colloquialisms to create your dialog?

    ReplyDelete