1. peachalulu
    Online

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada

    Historical Romance

    Discussion in 'Research' started by peachalulu, May 8, 2014.

    I'm thinking of writing a historical romance but the research is getting to me. Does anyone have any tips for gathering research and then organizing it?

    I was going to do a prairie romance but with everything I have to research I thought I'd pick something a little closer to home. So Instead I've settle on Canada and fur trapping.

    Has anyone ever undertook a historical romance it seems a bit overwhelming trying to get language right, social customs, food, etc.?
     
  2. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    @peachalulu - My current project is a historical novel, not specifically a romance. That means that you want to learn as much as you can about the time and place, people's wants, fears and prejudices. It also means you'll probably be less tempted than I was to incorporate all the history you learn (which will be better for you).

    I used 5-subject notebooks to keep notes on everything I researched. I got the ones with the pocket dividers for materials I printed off the internet. I listed every source that I made notes from and noted the relevant page in the margin. I made sure I made notes of dates, so that I didn't create any glaring anachronisms. I also numbered every page on which I wrote, section first (so, the twentieth page in the first section would be 1-20). I started with a couple of good general histories and made copious notes, then delved into books on specific events or time periods. When I had all the original material I thought I'd need, I drew up a single timeline - harder than it sounds, because I had to jump from source to source and section to section. For each date/event listed in the timeline, I listed the page reference where my notes could be found. Then, I broke the timeline down into chapters, and for each chapter created a fictional timeline for my story, again with notebook page references. These came in extremely handy when I was actually writing and suddenly wanted to fact-check. I also used an alphabet chart table to draw up a rough genealogy chart for my mc.

    If you focus on a single time period, you won't need to research as much as I did, but you still need to feel like you know the era.

    Good luck with it.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  3. peachalulu
    Online

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Thanks. The timeline sounds like a great idea. I think I'm going to stay away from any time period with wars though, as that would only create more research and a need for my characters to reference it. Plus, I'd really have to watch my locations at that point.
     
  4. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,803
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    It's much MUCH easier to do research and get the details right if you choose a locale and time period that has always fascinated you. One that you already know about and have read about. Does the Canadian fur trapping era fill that bill for you? Or the 'prairie' romance. (Not sure what that is, but I'd like to know!)

    Osmosis comes into it.

    I discovered when I wrote my novel, set mostly in Montana in 1885-86, that I knew more than I thought I did, because I'd been reading about that era and general locale since I was a child. When I wrote something into the novel, then thought ...wait a minute, I'd better look that up and make sure it really did happen or could have happened ...I'd say about 95% of the time I was right, first time. The few times I was wrong, it was no big deal because I wasn't too far off, and I was able to re-jig my story to fit.

    I guess I was already so immersed in the era that I'd absorbed a lot along the way.

    If you have a period and/ or location that has always interested you, and you choose that as your story's setting, you'll be miles ahead of any mere researcher. It'll already be in your bones.
     
    desert rat likes this.
  5. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,803
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    Just for interest's sake (because your fur trapping locale dovetails with my interests to some extent) I'd like to recommend three works of fiction that might set you on the right track, giving you an idea of setting and atmosphere:

    The Big Sky, by AB Guthrie, Jr

    Voyageurs, by Margaret Elphinstone

    Fool's Crow, by James Welch

    These are all cracking books.

    Margaret Elphinstone is one of my favourite authors (and I've spent time in her company.) She is SO nice and a very interesting lady. She lives in Scotland but is originally from the north of England. (LOVE her surnname, don't you?)
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  6. peachalulu
    Online

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Prairie romances are those stories where usually a woman ( a mail order bride in some cases ) meets a rancher or an Indian hunk and their days are spent on a ranch or in a soddy. She's either a school teacher or some hot-blooded spit-fire. The locations are usually Kansas, the west, Missouri etc. Typical happenings are brush fires, a run in with snakes or bears or Indians. I like reading them but the last time I seen open fields ( not covered with grape vines ) was a drive through Ontario.

    This is the toughie. I've always been more interested in twentieth century cultural history. But I am looking forward to reading about fur trapping and keeping the location in Canada will be helpful. Plus, I thought maybe I'd work in some characters who make maple syrup. Something I've actually had some mild experience with ( if you count a few trips to a maple syrup farm. ) lol. I think the woodsy locations will be easier for me to describe with some passion rather than fields I've only briefly seen.

    Thanks Jannert for the book recommendations, I'll check them out. Elphinstone - very cool last name!
     
  7. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,803
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    Laura Ingalls Wilder's first book, Little House in the Big Woods has a whole chapter devoted to making maple syrup (in the woods of northern Wisconsin, in the late 1860s or early 1870s.) The chapter is called The Sugar Snow. This is a fictionalised memoir of Laura's early childhood, so she actually lived this activity herself. I so do hate that awful TV series they made of her fantastic books. I think it put later generations off reading them, and it's a shame. She wrote the chronicle of an era, and it's been so trivialised since.

    Prairie Romance. Would that be Heart of the West, by Penelope Williamson? I read that while doing research, while writing my book at the same time. It takes place in Montana, in the same time period as my story, but in a different locale. Her research seemed pretty sound ...although where she got the term 'night rail' for nightdress I don't know. It certainly wasn't a term I could find anywhere else, including mail order catalogues of the day. She used the term several times, though. I kind of wonder...

    There's nothing wrong with writing about a part of the world you're not familiar with ...but don't be surprised if you find yourself taking a wee trip or two...just to do research! Part of the fun is 'being there.'

    By the way, there are loads of re-enactment societies that deal with the fur trade, so you'll have experts to ask questions of, if you need to. Most of them are ardent hobbyists, and will be pleased to be asked.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  8. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Clay Basket and Pasquinel in Michener's Centennial might give you some of what you're looking for. You might also want to check out Maddie Quimper in Texas.
     
    jannert and peachalulu like this.
  9. desert rat
    Offline

    desert rat Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2014
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    10
    If you can visit the area that you want to write about, that will help immensely. I went on a family holiday to Arizona and that has allowed me to visualize what it may have been like in a way internet, movies or others writings simply could not. I know I need to spend more time there to write a good story. If you can, go immerse yourself in the Prairies. Inspiration will strike :)
     
    peachalulu and jannert like this.
  10. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,803
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yeah. Being there gives you feel, smell and a sense of distance that you can't get otherwise. Especially if the terrain hasn't changed too much from what your setting will be. Even sky. Skies look different in different places. That clearness you get in the desert is not what you get in Michigan. And the sky in Scotland is unique with cloud formations, that are colourful and often vary a great deal, depending on which way you're facing. Many visitors to Scotland comment on the 'presence' of the sky. A presence that is often felt when it dumps a load on you!
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  11. historymom
    Offline

    historymom Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2014
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    MN
    I'm jumping on this thread a year late. I'm working on a novel that includes cattle ranching in 1884-86. I would love to compare notes, jannert.

     

Share This Page