Tag Archives: world building

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

That’s true in the Parallel Universe, too, where time expands and contracts for characters experiencing fictional life, as well as for their author (as narrator), and for readers (as observers). Writers who are pantsers don’t do much, if any, planning, plotting, or outlining when writing, but keeping an eye on the passage of time is important no matter how much or little of it elapses during the story.

For a historical novel set sometime on Earth, in addition to coordinating the plot with important dates, a writer may need to know the phases of the moon, and a calendar will be important for determining the impact of the weather on fictional events as well as the historical ones. Where in time do you need to go? 1066? 1776? 1871? 1914-1918? 1939-1945? A perpetual calendar is the place to start.

The website timeanddate.com offers one that can be customized and printed (PDF). Once you have the information provided by a perpetual calendar, it’s easy to construct your story’s fictional calendar, and then use it to verify continuity when you’re editing.

Time is important no matter what the genre, so if your story involves other-world-building, you’ll need to come up with a method of reckoning based on your planet’s periods of rotation and revolution. How much light, by how many suns, constitutes daytime? Is there more than one moon to illuminate the night? Do the inhabitants of your world use constellations to reckon longer periods of time? Do they use clocks and calendars driven by radioactive decay?

Yes, indeed, time flies, but you can put away your stopwatch, because unless you’re writing a story like The Poor Little Rich Girl (which, among other more ghastly things, explores bizarre alternative meanings for common idiomatic expressions), you probably don’t need it for racing insects.

 

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Research for Writing.

IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

Thorough research is the 4th of The 7 Reasonable Rules of Writing. Details will differ, according to exactly what our Muse has tasked us with writing: be it historical fiction, fictionalized history, literary fiction, contemporary life, or even fantasy world-building, which must achieve consistency and continuity between its wholly imaginary historical and contemporary aspects. But in general, this is the kind of research that writers should expect to conduct:

mooreVerify vocabulary. Outside of misspellings (including homophones and apostrophe errors), there’s nothing quite so jarring to a reader who’s in the know, than encountering anachronistic or culturally uncharacteristic bits of verbiage. Pay attention to the etymology your dictionary provides, and in particular, the dates. (My 1941 Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary also supplies a helpful “new word” list.)dictionary & phrasebook

Sometimes readers quibble over local semantics. Writers who are accustomed to the U. S. cultural and linguistic melting-pot should know that there’s no…

View original post 1,170 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

You Couldn’t Make It Up.

Non-writers invariably ask novelists, “Is it a true story?” or “Do you see yourself in any of the characters?” or even the baldly forthright “Is it autobiographical?” Sometimes these questions are drama-queen code-speak for, “Are you outing the family skeletons?” or “Am I going to be named and shamed?”

There’s nothing to fear. Reality-shows notwithstanding, and even with what may be a little “help” from a “friend” (I use those terms advisedly, as you’ll soon see), real lives rarely make a successful transition to Storytime, in print or otherwise. For example:

I’ve lived a strange enough life, so that in accordance with the “write what you know” advice, Irish Firebrands contains random fragments that could be considered extremely loosely based on events I’ve witnessed, heard about, or otherwise experienced.

Critter in "possum" mode

A composite cameo appearance was constructed from the lives of my three cats (two of which had already gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds – this one’s just pretending). But no scene or situation reproduces a particular episode from anyone’s actual life.

A few first names (and one surname) from my family history were used, and they’re all common names*, but my research did turn up some information that made it seem like a good idea to change two characters’ names. It’s a risk that’s run by works set in any time period or genre, and usually results in their bearing a disclaimer like, “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events is coincidental.”

The majority of Irish Firebrands is the product of four years of cultural immersion-based research. Looking back on the experience of writing it, I’m reminded of those food package health hazard warnings: “This is a natural product. May contain pits. Produced on equipment that processes nuts. May have traces of truth.”

With my current WIP being a historical that takes place from about 1906 to 1936, there’s only one fragment of an interpersonal event in it that can be traced to an old family anecdote. The rest is made from whole cloth woven on the loom of research. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Chronology is king: Getting the fictional and factual timelines to mesh is a challenge.

I’ve posted elsewhere about the importance of factual accuracy. Unless we’re writing fantasy or alternative history, it’s the gold standard, but even works in those genres have to maintain consistency with the history and facts of the world building that went into them.

But where documentation fails, and there may be doubt about what could have happened, any reasonable opinion will do. Readers may not like the sort of spin an author puts on such situations, but circumstantial evidence is why the handiest thing about history is that it’s impossible to slander the dead.

That’s where artistic license enters, and we get Storytime.

* One of my sons is fond of saying, “I get killed off on page 3,” but that’s not true. A character bearing a derivative of his name didn’t even show up until page 6 of the first printing of Irish Firebrands. What ultimately happens to that character is anybody’s guess.

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Novels, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing