1. DrPinkerton
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    DrPinkerton New Member

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    Help with my novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DrPinkerton, Dec 23, 2010.

    I've been trying to write a novel for years now. It’s about the Indian Mutiny in the 19th Century but no matter what I do it all just seems so plain and boring. It what can I do to liven it up?


    Any help would be greatly appreciated,

    Thanks,

    DrPinkerton
     
  2. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    You have to find an angle that works. What is special about the character(s) involved in the strory? That's where you will hook a reader. Something unique or interesting about the character that will make them, force them if you will, to keep reading. It may be a family divided on the issue of mutiny, a relationship, internal and external pressures, etc. There needs to be something that will make me, as a reader, feel connected.

    Ask yourself the basic questions. Who is your character? Why is he fighting (or not fighting). How do others feel? Does he change his actions to make others happier? If not, how does that affect his relationship with others?

    Those questions will give you a decent framework with which to proceed. After, you can focus on the small details.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    One of the great challenges of writing historical fiction is to capture the essence of the times, and that often takes a lot of research. That's a lot easier to do now than it used to be, what with the internet, but you need to be careful. Verify your facts as much as possible. Just as important as the main events, though, is the minutiae. How did people live? How did they think? What were their customs? What did they do for enjoyment? It's the little things that will give your story its distinctive feel.

    Good luck.
     
  4. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    I'd like to second what Ed said. Readers want to be transported, to a different time, or place, or adventure. Characters wouldn't speak like 21st century Westerners, and readers wouldn't want to hear that in a historical fiction novel. Much of character development in historical fiction stems from different customs and actions creating unique personalities that readers enjoy.
     
  5. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    I'm trying to write historical fiction myself at the moment, and I'm doing much the same as what Ed and Holden say. I found a diary written from the era that is really helping a lot with the ambiance a little bit more than the history textbooks.

    I don't know what kind of sources there are for your time period, but diaries, personal accounts, and newspapers are good for getting a solid grasp of what it was like to live then and there.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A good diary is worth its weight in gold to a writer of historical fiction!
     
  7. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    I'd like to add a caveat to Ed's advice.

    He's absolutely right - for quality historical fiction.

    There's plenty of sub-par works out there though that are only useful as lite summer reads. Certainly, try your best to get the facts straight, but don't get so worried about being perfect that you don't start writing.

    Things can get especially problematic with dialog. Basically, you will be translating language. For instance, if you have a phrase that was common then, but unknown now - what do you do? You can a) Put it in and try to provide context, b) use it but provide a footnote, or c) translate the phrase into a more modern variant. I'd go for (a), personally, but don't have a problem with either of the other choices.

    So, heed Ed's advice, but don't forget to actually start writing.

    -Frank
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I always work from the assumption that when someone asks how to best do something, they want to do it in a quality way.
     
  9. JohnathanRS
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    JohnathanRS Member

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    You can do a repetitive story with a boring plot, but if it is written with flare, it can still be a masterpiece. A cowboy meets an Indian girl, falls in love, she gets kidnapped, he rescues her and saves the day, and they live happily ever after. This is such a repetitive plot line; it has been used to no ends. However, there are some novels, movies, plays, whatever, that stand out above others. Why? Because it isn’t about the plot, it is all about how you inter act the characters and weave the story. Romance, Danger, Excitement, Suspense, exc, these are the main emotions that need to be triggered, because this is what people enjoy.

    The exception to this is, if you want to make something breathtaking, that is innovative, something that will make you become really famous as a author, then you have to master both this, and a creative plot that works with it and fuse them. Nevertheless, like baby steps, first, you need to master the art of telling a story, well, and then you need to create an incredible story.
     
  10. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    What do you find interesting about the period?

    Whatever that is, it's not boring or else you would never have thought to write the story. I will never write a novel about Amish people making quilts, because I have zero interest in that subject. You thought of the idea, so what's the appeal?

    When you answer that, I'd invent a character(s) who embodies your passion, then insert him into historically accurate events. He will be your witness to said events. Thus, you get to comment and educate at the same time.
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    In a lot of historical fiction, I've seen writers write in really dry, archaic voices because they think their writing style has to parallel the a more old-fashioned, formal tone. Most of the time this makes the story hard to read, passive, boring etc. So don't do it.

    Also, make sure it's not reading like a history book. Make sure you're not just giving info dumps or descriptions of what daily life routines were like then - sure it's interesting but it can never replace gripping conflict.

    Evaluate the way you begin your story. Stories should never begin with someone waking up, starting a daily routine, mulling around, reflecting etc. Okay maybe if they're jolted out of bed by something horrible then it's all good, but you get the idea.
     

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