1. Toothache Fairy
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    Toothache Fairy Member

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    Historical Fiction Research - What Should I Look Up?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Toothache Fairy, May 30, 2009.

    So I saw this documentary on 1930s hobos in school a while back, and I think it'd be fun to write a story about some, just for fun. I know it won't be very good, but I at least want it to be historically accurate. I really don't know all that much about the 1930s, though, and I was wondering what kinda stuff I should look up.

    I mean, aside from the Depression, 'cause that one's kind of a given. Like, what kinda stuff should I look up to get the feel of 1930s everyday life? That kinda thing.

    Sorry if this doesn't make any sense - I'm no good at wording stuff. :/
     
  2. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Farmers during 29 and the beginning of the 30's were hit with the dust bowl, causing them to be put out of business.

    The depression started in Oct of 1929.

    Roosevelt was elected in '32

    Radio was extremely popular and movies continued in popularity and gained in the '30s

    The 30's saw a return to more conservative social attitudes, compared to the 20's more free period that was a rebellion to the stuffy Victorian golden era of America.

    There are a lot of documentaries on all of these things. Ranging from the effects that prohibition had in the 20s, the rise of the Drug wars, after prohibition was revoked, and how much of a foothold mob connections now had in our society, to the sexual behavior of people in this time.

    How much research you do is up to you. You want to write about homeless people (hobos) so find things on the effects of the economy on society of the 1930's .

    Also, look for more modern movies depicting this time period. Check this link out, or google search for "movies set in 1930's" Wikipedia

    How about researching hobos themselves, no matter what the time period? Hobo.com has quite a bit of information.

    I saw this site too: http://www.northbankfred.com/colin1.html It has an essay on hobos.

    I would just do as much research as you feel you need to write a believable character and setting. I like to write little bits while doing research. Frequently, research will spark something creative in me, and I end up with a couple of hundred words to expand from.

    Jenn
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could check out local newspapers for your area. And court reports for the time, just minor spats and disputes give some good ideas for happenings during this period.
     
  4. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    It would be interesting to write about Hoovervilles, maybe.

    Hoovervilles, by the way, were little slums within cities that were very poor; most of the homes were one room shacks or very small homes because they could no longer afford the previous home. Called "Hoovervilles" as a way to show disgust for President Hoover's awesome ability to do relatively little for the majority of people suffering from the economic crisis.

    In the thirties, women were still earning their freedom from the twenties --wearing shorter skirts and lower necklines and being a little more 'loose' than what was considered ladylike.

    Prohibition (the banning of alcohol) became the 18th amendment in 1919 and was repealed on December 5, 1933, although many states still banned and limited alcohol consumption. The early thirties was still a time of bootlegging and speakeasies were popular and widespread.

    Many people turned to 'hobo-ism' (for lack of a better word) because they were out of a job, out of food, and generally depressed. According to my history textbook, quite a few of the first hoboes were once successful businessmen who were down on their luck, left the family to fend for itself and simply ran away.

    Radical forms of government were established as a reaction to the global depression. Facism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, Stalinism of course in Russia, and Communism continued to spread, which would eventually lead to the Second Red Scare. (The first occurred, I believe in 1910s with Palmer leading raids.)

    Big band and swing music was very popular and lasted into the 40s. It began to ebb in the '50s with the rise of rock'n'roll.

    Of course, in America, we saw FDR take presidency and break the record for longest terms served as president. Before FDR, there was no limit on the amount of terms a president could serve. He still holds the record of four terms, most likely cut short because of his untimely death right before V-E day in 1945.

    America saw a drastic change in government. The '20s were considered a conservative time period but as people looked for change and separation from the economic downfall, a more liberal government was put in place. Many people see similarities between FDR and Obama, by the way, which might help you get a grasstap if you arent up to speed with the '30s. The FDR government had an incredible first 100 days and the president continued by establishing numerous corporations and organizations which both provided jobs and cleaned up America's banking system, educational system, and overall aesthetics.

    Gone with the Wind also made its debut in the '30s, by the way.

    The library is sure to hold a wealth of information for you. :)

    Also:
    Never put yourself down! You havent even begun to put your words to paper yet. I can tell you, whether you tell yourself you'll do a good job or a bad job, you are usually right. If you go into this assuming it will be a poor attempt, I highly doubt it will be as good as the result if you had gone into this with a positive "this will be awesome" attitude. :love:

    Good luck, and if you want tips, you can always check out our Review Room for critiques! :)
     
  5. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    When it comes to Historical Fiction I have found that nothing beats the local public library. Amost any US history book will have some related lit.

    Below quoted so you can read it twice.


     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everything. No detail is too small.
     
  7. bumboclaatjones
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    bumboclaatjones Member

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    talk to some people who actually lived through that time period. I know that there are still quite a few around. Also, decide on what part of the US you want to focus on, as the people in different parts of America are culturally (very) different, and were also very different in how they were affected and how they reacted to the pressures of the times.
     
  8. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I think it depends on you and your story. Do you have a story in mind, or do you just want to write a story about that era?

    I'd get to work thinking about my story. Some people write a detailed plot, some don't, I personally prefer a detailed plot, the question on whether or not to do so is a matter of debate.

    Start thinking about who your characters are, and who you want them to be. That will help guide you in your research. In the mean time, find a book on your chosen historic period and start to read it. Put in some google time.

    I've written a draft of a book about Thomas Jefferson's period. My research lead me down many avenues. At this point, I've read dozens of books, but I've also visited dozens of historic places. Some of my reading lead me to other readings, which lead me to still other readings. I even read some very obscure works, some hard to read, such as an old biography of a man named Francis Adrian Vanderkemp, and an old religious writing by the Unitarian Joseph Priestly called "The History of the Corruptions of Christianity."

    As for places I visited: I visited Monticello, of course, but (based on my reading and research) I also visited Jefferson's lesser known second home Poplar Forest, and his Natural Bridge. And I visited the house of Joseph Priestly, and the home of John Adams, and several important places in Philadelphia such as Independence Hall and the grave sites of Benjamin Franklin and the physician friend of Jefferson, Benjamin Rush. These are only some examples, there are several other locations I visited and/or toured.

    It's all a matter of what you want for your book. The story has to come first though. At the early stage, it's good to start reading, but it's critical to start plotting and character developing. Heavy research can come when your book is underway. The story should open areas you'll want to research, and beginning research will open areas for further research.

    Also, if you're "no good with wording stuff," I'd suggest making a couple writing books part of your research, and making regular, daily writing part of your schedule. For writing books, I recommend "The Writer's Coach" and any part of Frey's "How to write a damn good..." series.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I can't agree with this. If you have to research the setting to an infinite depth, you'll never get around to writing.

    Wreybies current signature, attributed nto Carmina is:
    You don't need to know every detail about the time and place you are writing about, only more than other writers you may be competing with, and more than most of your readers. Readers love to pick up tidbits of knowledge as they read. Learning is fun, it's studying that few enjoy.

    But it isn't worth the research to find out what varieties of leaves were the favorite choices of Napolean's soldiers for wiping after squatting in the woods. It's a detail most won't want to know (unless they are cross-country hiking in central Europe).
     
  10. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    have a look in your local library, theres bound to be something there. in the sence of what to look up, go for anything that is relevent to the story E.G. who was in office; what food was around; currency at the thime. that sort of thing
     
  11. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Go listen to "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" and look up everything mentioned therein.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course. Yo do have to be reasonable.
     
  13. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    This reminds me of some good advice:

    Research as much as you want, but be careful not to inundate your reader.

    There was a point where I tried to pack too much research data into my prelude. I pulled a lot out, and some people still think it's a bit too dense.

    Engage your reader, entertain your reader, and sure, inform your reader, but don't write a textbook... unless, of course, you're writing a textbook. ;)
     
  14. Toothache Fairy
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    Toothache Fairy Member

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    Wow, I didn't think anybody'd post here after I dissappeared. You guys are the greatest.

    Bluebell80 and Mercurial, thanks so much for all the info! That's super nice of you :)

    I hadn't thought of checking the library. How weird. I'm out of school now, so I should probably swing by there tomorrow.

    As for the story itself, I don't really have anything in mind - just two homeless guys travelling around, I guess. I thought I'd find something interesting to write about once I started researching.

    Thank you all so much for your wonderful advice!
     

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