1. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Starting in the Victorian Era...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RLJ, Apr 15, 2012.

    I've been working on trying to start a story in the Victorian Era for about 2 years now, I have about 8 months worth of research and notes on the time period, and I've come up with about 3 different plots, but after a few chapters they flop, and run out of places to go with them almost as quickly as they began. I also go back and read them, and they sound like a second grader wrote it...it's a little upsetting and quite frustrating. Advice?
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    KEEP WRITING.

    What you are experiencing is something common to all writers. You are getting exponentially better at writing, and every time you look back you are now twice as good as you were when you started. It might have seemed pretty good at the time, but now it looks like crap. That's to be expected. Just let it be bad writing, for now at least, and get to the end of your story. By then, you will be a much more accomplished writer, and you'll be able to go back and fix the bad stuff. Getting to the end is also important because you want to feel like you've actually DONE something; COMPLETED it.

    I understand how frustrating it is, but just know it's part of the process. My first draft of my story was more like a second grader had written it, too, but now it's a lot better.
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    If you think your old writing sucks it means you are improving, because you can see why and how your old writing can improve.

    If it's a plot issue, why not try to combine these plots into one large narrative?

    Either way, so long as you keep writing, the only way is up.
     
  4. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    @funkybassmannick: Thanks! That actually really helped me, you--along with Lemex--seem to give some good advice, would you mind if -when I'm up for it- send you some drafts of the story for feedback? I'd appreciate it.
    Also if anyone knows someone learned, or an expert on Gilded Age/ Victorian-New York/ Philadelphia, please let me know! I'd like to pick their brains about some things I can't seem to find on the internet or in any books!
     
  5. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Glad I could help!

    If you feel up for it, the writing workshop here is a great experience. (Just make sure you have been on here 2 weeks, have at least 20 posts, and have made 2 quality critiques of others) To make sure I don't miss it, you can drop a visitor message on my page. If you feel self-conscious about posting in the writing workshop, you can PM me what you have and I would be happy to critique it for you that way. I give pretty darn good critiques if I say so myself :)
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I can't take a look at anything right now, really busy, but check out Dicken's notes on America if you haven't already, and Poe's non-fiction.
     
  7. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Those wouldn't really help, I'm looking for societal aspects, you know, like what neighborhoods did the rich live in --besides 5th Avenue-- etc. things like that. But thanks though!
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I noticed that you are located in Miami. I don't know if you have much opportunity to get to New York, but if you can, you should. Even though NY's neighborhoods are constantly changing, they are sort of like trees - they leave indications of what was there in earlier times. There are open-deck bus tours through the uptown (and downtown, but you'd want uptown) neighborhoods, and sometimes the guides really know their material. Also, a good place to go is the Theodore Roosevelt birthplace, a lovely restored brownstone just off Broadway in the Flatiron districe (I believe on 20th or 21st Street - don't remember exactly which, I haven't been there in years). I know, he was born well before the time in which you are interested, but you can get a good idea of how the city - and the wealthy - migrated northward on the island of Manhattan. As I recall, the curators there were well versed in the growth of the city. The New York Historical Society, located on Central Park West (just south of the more famous Museum of Natural History) might also be a source of information for you.

    I would also read biographies from the time period, and other works. The 1890s was a watershed time for the city, including the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, which in turn led to the establishment of the City of Greater New York, incorporating Brooklyn and Queens into the rest of the city (up until then, Brooklyn was itself a city). There are histories of the city's transportation system, particularly the subway system, that could be of help as well.

    Best of luck.
     
  9. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Thank you for all of the suggestions, my character charts are coming together, and hopefully I'll be able to let some of you look at them very soon! :)
     
  10. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    I wanted to do something new, there will be a plethora of side/ supporting characters. Along with a number of main character--I have yet to decide-- I can't decide whether to make it 1886/or 1888--or 1892/ or '93, but that's something I'll work out. Also, I was debating on whether to put it in Philadelphia, or New York, but that again is something I'll have to work out.

    Geneva Blackmoore, daughter of a middle-class bank owner in London, is to marry her sweetheart, rich American Steel Magnate Richard Palmer. It was more of a financial agreement, but she lucked out in reference to the fact that they are truly in love, so she thinks. On her arrival to America after the wedding, she is confronted by the evils, and scheming of societies' women, quickly sucked into a whirlwind of lying, cheating, and infamous 'frenemies.' she desperately searches for a way out.

    I was really vague in my description, but that's because I haven't been able to think of an ending for the story yet! Which is keeping me from starting the actual writing.
     
  11. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Hi I'm new here, but I was just reading this thread. I was a literature student and my favourite literature was from the Victorian Era and I know a lot about women (social practices and etiquette) of the era. I also know a about neighbourhoods, but as they apply to London. Just to clarify, the Victorian era was a British period and refers to London (I'm sure you know this, but in case you don't.) The latter end coincided with the US gilded age. I know that's not really a huge point as your characters are not going to say: "We are in the Victorian age," but my point is that if you are looking for someone with some historical knowledge it would help to know the exact period you are referring to. I know a lot about London, but little about the US Gilded Age. I'm sorry if this isn't helpful, but being specific is sort of important when looking for research.

    Also, I would recommend reading some Victorian era books. If you are trying to write historical fiction brush up on your Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, George Elliot, and Thomas Hardy. If you are looking for setting specific (London for example) stick with Dickens because he really does paint a picture of Victorian London and all the areas. If you want an example of supernatural fiction written in that era check out Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Richard Marsh (The Beadle). Marsh's text may be difficult to find because it is not a well known text like Dracula, for example. However, it's an excellent read.

    For research purposes, I would suggest that you access a university library and you may be able to find etiquette books and things like that, which will not be at the local public library. Also, if you have a REALLY good University library there may be an archives area that may have letters or things like that from the period.

    I hope this is helpful! If you have any questions I may be able to guide you in the right direction at the very least.
     
  12. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Oops I apologize for posting before getting through the entire thread.

    My answer is not very helpful at all, I apologize.
     
  13. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Thanks, I did indeed know that the Victorian Era was specifically Britain, and the the Gilded Age was America, I have, after all been researching this for around a year, although that's not nearly enough, I'm very familiar with the various forms of etiquette. ex.(Calling Cards, Fan Meanings, Mourning Practices, Appropriate times for various activities, ETC). Although if I do have questions, I'll be sure to PM you.--I'm not trying to sound sarcastic, arrogant, or snarky btw, sometimes that's just how I come off in writing--It would be nice to know about some of the British areas seeing as my setting starts off in London, before changing scenery to America. Although I'm pretty learned in my English Literature, there's no harm in trying to brush up, I appreciate your suggestions, but I was searching for some definite information, rather than tips.
    PS: Don't take offense, I'm not being sarcastic!
     
  14. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    No offense taken. I was just trying to understand what sort of research you were looking for and knowing specifically what era would have helped direct you better. Also, I hope I wasn't implying that you weren't educated in literature. Good luck and I look forward to hopefully seeing some sample chapters around. :)
     
  15. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    I have many different plots in mind, I do plan on sharing them with you, but I am a little weary because I hope to get published one day. So forgive me if I seem a little vague at time.

    Now, it seems that in books of this genre, authors tend to tell the story from the point of view of the typical beautiful young girl being married off to the english duke--American Heiress--or a young lady experiencing the woes of victorian society--The Luxe--This is something I want to get away from, so I decided to try something from the point of view of middle-aged victorian women, and various other people, I may want to do about 5 or 6 characters that I can weave in and out of the story, but that takes a lot of work when trying to produce a plot full of juicy details, and very specific.
    This plot would start off something like this:

    Carol Hatley, queen of Philadelphian Society, enjoys a lavish lifestyle married to her Rich Banker husband, but when her daughter, Susan, drenches the family in a nast scandal, they flee back to her hometown New York. On her Arrival, she encounter her old nemesis, Geneva Palmer, a scheming englishwoman married to Carol's cousin. They were friends, and rivals up until the day she left town to start her new life. Charlotte/Vivian Banks/ Campbell, former friend/ or estranged sister, is an unhappy middle-aged woman with a philandering husband, and unruly children, as she tries to get her life on track, she is constantly entrapped into the feuding of her two friends. ---then there would other chracters, but I haven't developed them yet.--
    Opinions?
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    RLJ, your plot summary sounds more like a setting than a plot to me, and maybe that's why you find yourself petering out after a few chapters. The friends, the feuding, the scandal, they all sound like an interesting background for a plot, but I think that you need a stronger focused plot running through this background. Are all of these events causing your MC to question her life and her role in society? Does your MC have to choose either her daughter or her husband, remaining loyal to one and betraying the other? What's the plot? You don't have to tell us, but I think you have to have one.
     
  17. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think CF may have spotted your problem! I suggest that you address it sharpish, before you immerse yourself in detailed research. As I have a degree in social history, I have started several historical sagas confidently, knowing I have a good grasp of the period, only to peter out around the 20,000 word mark. Then I began to plot better, and to give my MCs goals and obstacles rather than relying on recreating the vivid 'scenes' in my head to spin a novel.
    BTW, I would say don't keep writing if there is a basic plot flaw--it will be unsatisfying at best and impossible at worst.
     
  18. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    I think this sounds intriguing and something I'd be likely to read. I wonder if you entered class into the mix, which would be an interesting mix and may get you away from that beautiful young girl being married off. Maybe a maid having a torrid love affair with the philandering husband of the middle-aged woman, but maybe he's actually in love with her. As I'm sure you are aware, class is a huge aspect to 19th century life -- no one wants to be middle-class or lower-class -- everyone wants to be part of this upper society, right? I always find these lower-class characters more interesting.
     
  19. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Also - I love mixing the American and British because the American women were despised as being "unlady-like" by the British.
     
  20. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Exactly! I planned to add some servants in there as well. The thought of that rigid class system intrigues me, because I relat to it--ancestry-- I look forward to sharing with you guys, but I do want to get it published someday, so maybe I'll give you one nice long chapter! :) It'll be quite a while, I mean afterall, who can start writing before they have a plot, know the end of their story, and haven't thought up the remaining characters! Along with the fact that I have AP testing coming up...so I'll be in STUDY STUDY STUDY mode.
     
  21. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Took my AP test yesterday. I have a few more in a couple of weeks, but for now, I can finally take a sigh and in some ways, relax! Hopefully I'll get around to starting some writing!
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Someone mentioned class distinctions, and I came across a piece that described city life in New York's slums in the 1880s and 1890s. I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with that information as well - the lack of clean running water or decent sanitation, the fact that virtually everything was transported by horse, which meant the streets were constantly laden in manure (in dry spells, the manure would dry out and be crushed into a fine dust that got into everything, and the stench was awful). And although we love immigrant success stories, the fact was that a good number of immigrant families arrived dirt poor and stayed dirt poor for two or three generations.

    In an earlier post, I had mentioned how beneficial a trip to New York would be. If you are ever able to make it, I would strongly recommend you visit the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side (I believe it is on Delancey Street).
     

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