Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Historical Acuracy In Writiing

How Do You Achieve Historical Accuracy?
If you write stories from the past, you know what I’m talking about when I say you must have historical accuracy in your work.  Readers will be dismayed with your story if you use modern language or insert something that didn’t exist at the time in which your story takes places.  Those who think readers don’t care, may be sadly mistaken and the price for such a mistake may be that they won’t read that author’s next historical book. 
Writers use all types of resources for their historical work.  I have a series by Writer’s Digest called Every Day Life in (the Middle Ages, Colonial America, Renaissance England and so on).  These are wonderful books that give the basics of clothes, entertainment, food, medicine and some common words.  I also have a book with all the Historical Time Tables in it for every year from first written historical documentation to present but these are brief notations only.
Each historical writer has a time period they are especially attracted to like the American Civil War and the aftermath.  My favorite time is 1900-1930.  I am lucky enough to have a research book that goes in depth about this time period with many pictures and illustrations titled Remember When.  This book above all others helped me when I wrote The Violin,  Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride and my present WIP.  My research has also included some hands on, face to face experiences.  I went for a flight in a small plane and learned the instrument panel and how to get out of a dive by experiencing it first hand—a terrifying experience that.  I interviewed a homicide detective and had a long chat with an octogenarian who had lived through  the 1920’s and Great Depression.   I also had the good fortune to have parents who loved to talk about way back when they were growing up.
I don’t know about other authors but I enjoy the research sometimes a bit too much.  I can get lost in it because, well, it’s just fun. 
So, imagine what it might be like for a modern woman to try to make a meal using 1910 technology—or lack of in this case.

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride
By Sarah McNeal
Available at Western Trail Blazer Novels
Available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble
Also available in print
A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.

Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death. With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together? Or will time and circumstance forever divide them?
Lola examined the metal bucket resting under the water pump in the dry sink and gave the pump a couple of thrusts to see how well it worked.  The pump worked with ease, testifying that Joe had maintained and oiled the pump workings well.  Cold, clear water propelled by the force of her exertions splashed into the bucket.  A burst of happiness invaded her chest as she filled the bucket and then filled the reservoir on the side of the stove.  She remembered her great grandmother’s old wood burning stove from her early childhood and had a faint recollection of how they worked. 
            Amazement filled her at how easy it might be for her to adjust to this rustic life.  If she could ditch the tight corset, this life might even be tolerable for a while.  Visiting an outhouse for personal business was, however, something she did not look forward to.
            Lola took up the iron handle she found lying on the shelf above the stove, poked it into the slot of one of the burners, and lifted the round lid up.  Everything seemed to be in working order.  She found some pine chunks in a metal box beside the stove and threw them into the stove.  Taking a match from the box above the stove near the plate warmer, she scratched it on the rough surface of the stovetop until it ignited and then threw it onto the kindling inside the stove.  The kindling didn’t catch fire so she tried it several more times without success.
            “Here, now.  I’ll help you with that.”  A baritone voice spoke with quiet confidence just behind her as she attempted once again to get a fire lit.  His voice rippled down her spine in a wave of heat that caught her breath.  He stood much too close for comfort.  


Tina Donahue said...

I know how difficult it is, but necessary, to achieve historical accuracy in a book. I've had several historicals pubbed and the most difficult were the ones I set in Spain in the late 15th century. Although there was no end of reference works on England, France and even Germany during that era, there was scant info on Spain. I had to look at artwork from the period to determine what people wore. I read translated manuscripts from the era to get a sense of mores, phrasing, etc. It was exhausting, but I wanted to get it right.

I've read Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride and it's excellent!! The story has everything a reader of romance could possibly want, including historical accuracy. I recommend it highly. :)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

What a darling you are, Tina. I remember you telling me about the struggle you had with Spanish history. It sounds exhausting.
Thank you for your lovely comment about Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride and your recommendation.
I swear I didn't pay her to say that, ya'll.

Renee Vincent said...

Sarah, I enjoy the research aspect of historicals too! And amazingly, I have this book as well: Writer’s Digest: Every Day Life in (the Middle Ages) & (the 1800's) They are GREAT books.

I am a stickler for historical accuracy and to me, it just proves an author dedication to writing when they keep it accurate. Great post, Sarah!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you for your comment, Renee. I love research and sometimes just get lost in it. Writer's Digest has such fantastic writer resources. Their books are top notch. I even have their Every Day Life Among The American Indians. I haven't use it yet but I sure want to. Thanks for dropping by. I always appreciate your comments.

Renee Vincent said...

My pleasure! And can't wait to start reading your book! I have two books in front of yours that I MUST get finished before I delve into HJRB. But looking very forward to it!

Cheryl Pierson said...

Hi Sarah,
I love doing research for my historicals! And HJRB was very accurate in details. I enjoyed it so much, because one of the things that "trips me up" when I am reading is coming across a piece of description or dialogue that isn't realistic for the time or place. Your book was VERY realistic. LOVED IT!

Cheryl Pierson said...

BTH, Sarah, can I just say here that I got on this morning and answered comments for my post yesterday since we are now having good weather--sorry to be so tardy, but couldn't be helped.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Renee, you doll, thank you so much for buying my book and I hope you like it.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Cheryl, thank you for coming by and leaving a comment for me. I guess you would certainly know about historical accuracy. You are like the guru on historical facts.
I am just glad that you and yours are safe, Cheryl. Having seen what devastation happened in Joplin, Missouri, I am very concerned for all of you in Torando Alley. Be safe.

Delaney Diamond said...

I would love to write a historical, but I'm too chicken. I'd be too worried about the historical accuracy, but I love reading them. I'll stick to that for now.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Hey Delaney. Thank you for dropping in and leaving me a comment. I love to write historicals in a period I feel confident about, 1900-1930. If I had to write a Regency, I believe I would be reduced to whimpering tears. Imagine how hard that would be. Not only would you have to get the nuts and bolts of the time period right but all that aristocracy and social norms and manners you'd have to get a handle on. I love to read them but I'll most likely never write one.
Thanks for visiting my blog.

Adele Dubois said...

Sarah--I appreciate historical accuracy in novels. It's good to be as accurate as possible in any genre, but historical, especially.

Best of luck with your release!


Sarah J. McNeal said...

Adele, where ya been? Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment for me. I appreciate that.

Fiona McGier said...

Sounds like a whole lotta work, doing all of that research before you write, Sarah! But then if you like doing it, it's not a hardship. It seems to work well for you, based on the comments here. There seem to be a lot of fans of historicals.
Good luck with sales.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

It would be sort of boring if we all liked to write and read the same things, wouldn't it? I love research because, it not only helps me gets the facts but it's also fun and puts me in the mood to write the story.
Thank you so much for dropping in to comment, Fiona. It's always a pleasure to hear from you.

Elena Gray said...

I have so much respect for historical writers. There is so much detail involved. Thank goodness for the internet! I couldn't imagine what it was like to do research before it. Sarah I have this on my wish list!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Elena, I am sorry I missed your comment from yesterday. Thank you so much for dropping by. If you do decide to read Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride, I hope you love it.

Brenda Hyde said...

Maybe this is why I'm afraid of writing historicals-- I think I would spend all my time researching because it's SO much fun. I used to do that with my nonfiction. I'd plan a newsletter/article/blog and spend the day researching for a 500 word article. LOL Not productive:)

I'm fascinated with the 1920's, so I think IF I did decide to write something I'd pick that time period. Thanks for sharing some of your resources Sarah-- that helped me understand how you go about things.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I used to write a monthly newsletter for the emergency department and I often got caught up in the research for that, too. Actually, I think it's a good thing, Brenda.Since you mentioned that you also like the 1920's and that you're considering writing a book in that time period, let me just say that the best research I had was from the little old lady I interviewed from my dad's hometown. No one tells it quite the way an eye witness who experienced it does. Her attitude told me so much about the period and the character of those in that time.
Thank you so much for dropping by, Brenda.