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Sunday, August 16, 2015

HOW TO MAKE HISTORICAL FANTASY REAL



History whispers its truth to anyone who will take the time to go where it lives. 
 - Meilori Shinseen


Where does history pulse with imperfect life?

In journals, diaries, and personal letters.  

Read the diaries of Mark Twain, the personal letters between John and Abigail Adams, the recollections of Nikola Tesla, 

and you will be astounded how their vital personalities leap from the pages.

You will sit and wonder over what you've read and still not know their hearts.  But you will have clues.  

What we write, even in non-fiction, is not truth.  It is only a mirror reflecting our own truths, our own souls.

Milo Fowler once asked me to write on how I incorporate historical figures and settings into what I write.

I can only tell you my truth.  Yours will be different.

INJUSTICE propels me.  And injustice leaves its bloody footprints down through the ages in the history texts.

Watch the movie, KHARTOUM

and you will see petty politicians wash their hands of the great unwashed in Egypt 

... and of the hubris of two flawed warriors of God.



Two of my historical fantasies were born of that time and of my fascination with the myths and Alien gods theories of ancient Egypt.



The "Alan Quartermain" of my linked world is the undead Captain Samuel McCord.  The law is not as important to that cursed Texas Ranger as is justice.

As I read history, I think: "How would McCord deal with this injustice?"

Have you ever tried to do the "right" thing?  How did that work out for you?  

Those with power think that might gives them license to play out their plots for even more power.  

Loosening one end of a political knot always seems to tighten it at the other end.

The beginning of our current situation in the Mid-East was sown in 1895.  

The personalities of those days are revealed in their letters.  Take Winston Churchill

his MY EARLY YEARS paints a world any writer would ache to meddle with.

So I meddled ... or Samuel McCord did ... for the best possible reasons that always seem to backfire for him as they do for many of us.

In a strange way, STAR WARS seemed more real to me than STAR TREK.  

The ships had dings, never worked quite right, and Han Solo shot first when it would save his life.

Your hero is only as good as his flaws which must be epic but understandable if your reader is to root for her or him.

McCord's greatest flaw is his love for his mysterious wife, Meilori, to whom Aztecs dragged screaming sacrifices ... while she smiled.

You must make your love interest rooted in human nature, alluring yet dangerous -- for men love bad girls.

And your hero's enemies must be epic as well.  Historical enemies ground your novels in reality.

Take the figures you are drawn to in history.  Your fascination will spill over onto your readers.

I have always been fascinated with Abigail Adams and Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire.  

They were strong women who thrived in times when women were hard-pressed to be seen as equals by men.

How to bring them into McCord's world?

Why not make them my special strain of vampire?  And leaders of their own undead empires?  

To have McCord stand in their way as they fought one another for control of the rest of the world seemed guaranteed to create impossible situations for my hero to escape.

Fantasy become real when your reader nods her head, buying the agenda that drives all the characters in your drama.

There are no villains ... merely strong-willed individuals whose cherished agendas strike sparks from other strong-willed people.

Ask yourself questions:

What would the Abigail Adams of her letters become in defense of the country that she and her husband sacrificed so much for?

How might undead Abigail react to the hero-worship of a young girl?

How would Empress Theodora, the daughter of a bear trainer and wife of an emperor of savage days, view human life?

How would her worldview differ from a Texas Ranger's whose code of honor was born of his educated parents and Apache mentor?



What was the daily life like for the British overseers of Egypt in 1895?  

How did it differ from the common man on the dusty streets?  

What were the major sights of Cairo of that time, of the desert ruins?

How did one get from here to there in that time?  What were the smells and sounds along the way?



Tourist books of that time will inform you of many of those questions ... and more important of how the Egyptians, both upper, middle, and lower class, were viewed.  

Also they will provide clues to how people talked in that era.  No O.K.'s allowed in your dialogue!!

Take care not to info-dump on your poor readers.  But do have fun with the world, and so your reader will have fun, too.

Small details garnered from newspaper accounts of those days will lend depth and reality to your tale.

Make use of Man's knee-jerk denial of what makes him uncomfortable to explain why the magic of your novel blends without many ripples into the events of your narrative.

The more exotic and rustic your locale, the easier will the magic in your tale not be noticed by the world in general ... 

and so not jar the willing suspension of high school history lessons of your reader.

Find pictures or better yet videos.  It is all too true that a picture is worth 1000 words!



I hope I've helped in some small way.  :-)  Roland

7 comments:

  1. Hi Roland - bringing your thoughts into a post for us to pick up and work through ... will help many writers - so often the wrong tone is used in many books ... where the time frame doesn't ring true. There's so much for a writer to think about and get right ... the descriptive passages of the place settings, the characters and the dialogue relative to the period.

    You've given us some great ideas here ... and those Egyptian clips ... will definitely help ...

    Cheers Hilary

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    Replies
    1. Weren't those Egyptian clips fun? Like small windows back into time,

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Shelly, Sometimes I feel as if I am playing to an empty house. :-(

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  3. I am writing life for the history I am leaving behind, the ups and the downs will be the drama... conquering those demons, dragons and devils... are my rewards.

    Great read as always... thank you!

    Jeremy

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    Replies
    1. Each of us live our own myth or with me ... miss! :-) Thanks for the nice words.

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