My Thoughts on Beginning Writing Part II- Don't worry about details yet.
Welcome back to My Thoughts on Beginning Writing. This is part II and here, we'll examine research, in particular if you're planning on writing historical fiction.
Now, I'm a huge history buff, as you all probably know. So much that I am a stickler for details. If I wanted to write a historical fiction peice, I want to know exactly what they wore at the time, every little thing down to the type of boots and boot sizes they wore. (Anyone know Napoleon's? )
Of course, this has a great risk of strangling your creativity when you write. How so?
Let's say I wanted to write a story set in 1950s America. All right, cool. Right after World War II. However, my stickler for detail creeps up on me and I have to know every single thing that has happened, and I mean everything. Births, deaths, weather conditons. Every single movie, every single TV show, every single radio, every single car, every single damn thing that came out in the 1950s.
I'm left with so much stuff to research that I'm overwhelmed, panicked. How on earth am I going to even start my plot if I don't know precisely what the weather was on August, 13th, 1952 at 3:20 pm?
If you're ever at this stage, stop. Calm down and take a deep breath.
Firstly, the readers are not going to care what the temperature was on the afternoon of August, 13th, 1952. This is easy. Just go to a weather almanac online and look up the average temperature of the setting during that year. That's all you'd need to do.
Now, about every other thing? Don't worry about them. The only thing you should be worried about is the plot. Just get the basics down like don't have your character pull out a laptop or pine for a gameboy as they didn't exist back then. For the record, boys back in the 50s were all excited about comic books. You can either make up your own comic book series for your characters or use a pre-existing one (but give credit to the creator(s)!!).
In the first draft of the story, just write. Don't wonder if Howdy Doody was still going in 1952. Just write your character watching it and if it turned out that, whoops, it was canceled before 1952, then just replace the show with another.
And here's one thing I've learned personally that I want to share to you: Don't think you have to address the political issues (I thought you had to, especially if your setting was in the middle of a war). You can ignore the fact that there's a Cold War going on as much as you please. Readers are, as shocking as it may seem, not morons. All they'd have to do is see the year 1952 or read hints that its set just after WWII and apply a basic knowledge of American history to guess what's going on now.
While you're writing the first draft, jot down questions you might have, like was Howdy Doody still around by 1952. When you print it out and are editing it, take your paper of questions, go on the internet and look them up.
EDIT: And if you were curious, Howdy Doody was running in 1952 and would keep running until 1960.
EDIT II: In 1952, America was in its second year of the Korean War. Armistice followed in 1953. Then, the Vietnam War followed in 1955, lasting for twenty years to 1975.
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