Write Back to the Future!
Quick, get in 'cause they'll be here any minute! No, I'm not going to tell you who's chasing me or why, just jump the heck into my tricked-out DeLorean. You can ask questions later.
Before I put my key into the ignition and flip the switch on the flux capacitor, we've got to decide where and exactly when we're going to go from here.
Since those scoundrels I've written about in THE DEATH BROKERS are closing in on us, I'm going to type in the year 2002 on the capacitor keyboard, because that's where the story in my manuscript begins.
Are you buckled in and holding on? Good because here we go, off to the year 2002!
Wow, it feels strange to be back here, but suddenly I feel and look younger too. This time travel is better than Botox! So let's see...if my story is to begin in this year, then we should dig around and see what we can find out about the year 2002. Are there any notable events which could be worked easily into the plot of my manuscript?
Hmm...Let's see if my laptop works in the past. It does and there are some really diverse events that happened then, or should I say now. There's the invention of the camera phone by Nokia, and the year 2002 was referred to as a 'palindrome' year, in that either backward or forward it's the same number! Now this is interesting, the Department of Justice began investigating some company called 'Enron', and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began on March 1. I'd say the year 2002 had some interesting developments and scandals.
All of these facts are cool, but what would aid in the development of my characters in the story? Some literary powers-that-be say it's best to not date your manuscript, but in the case of my manuscript, this is something I have to do because it's loosely based upon a cluster of scandals from within a specific window of time. So to the elusive powers-that-be I offer this response:
Now wait, you say you've found the original commercial for the Nokia camera phone? It's showing on t.v. right now, in 2002? Great!
This is awesome, and it tells me everything I'd need to know to be able to write it into the scene. Ihave to admit, I did like that Shakira song back in the day. Including this will inject a bit of humor and nostalgia at just the right moment in my manuscript, and I know which character is going to use this technological dinosaur.
Uh oh...is that a crack of lightening we hear? I think the bad guys are on our trail again, so it's time to jump back into the DeLorean and plug in a year you'd like to visit for your manuscript.
What? You entered the year 1789? You mean to tell me we need to go back in time to research the year the French Revolution began?
There's no you tube digital record from that time, and only books and online documents or historical artifacts could help in writing your manuscript, making it authentic for both time and place. What else can we do to help you quickly get the information you need? Where else can we turn?
Good thinking! You sent out an online distress message to a writer of historical fiction to help us out.
Here's her response. And wow, can Sophie Perinot (author of THE SISTER QUEENS) type fast!
"Like a majority of historical fiction authors, I did a substantial amount of both primary and secondary source research for my debut novel, The Sister Queens. The process of researching is not as onerous as it was even five years ago. Technology has greatly improved access to information (and experts) right from authors’ desks—everything from the contents of scholarly journals to digital copies of manuscripts is now available on-line. Being able to search WorldCat and Jstor from home rather than going through a reference librarian . . . who doesn’t love that?! Of course the virtual world hasn’t obviated more concrete documents entirely. I travel to reach sources when I have to (or use that old standby the interlibrary loan) and have stacks of old-fashioned books which I am constantly tripping over."
| Whoever said there's no thrills|
in historical fiction never read this book!
Buy SISTER QUEENS!
That's great to know, and when we get back to the future you can use those resources to help finish your manuscript.
Oh wait, here's a reader comment from Mayumi H (@bonusparts_fic on twitter) that just came in and it's filled with more good advice about researching the past:
"I wrote a story about turn-of-century Japan, and had a great time reading articles and speaking w/grandparents."
She also advised spending time in the stacks, doing a lot of reading and getting a feel for the language of the period. Thanks Mayumi for the great tips!
Sorry, but we've got to run. I can't let THE DEATH BROKERS catch me, so we're going to make like a preacher and get the hell outta here! But remember, researching the past to make your present work fabulous can be fun.
Ooooh what is this? A sharp-dressed man who looks like Pitbull has pulled up beside our DeLorean in a black Ford? You vote we follow him?
"To understand the future...we have to go back in time."
from "Back In Time" from Men In Black III, by the handsome Pitbull!