Friday, June 7, 2013

Somewhere in Time...

I recently came across some valuable advice regarding the writing of historical fiction. The cautionary note indicated that the writer should not get lost in the research.  Luckily for me, I am one of those people who like the process of creating something; the journey is fun and I do not really want to get to my destination. This may explain why I often sit in my car in the driveway when I am returning home from a trip to the market. History should never be top heavy in the story; it should be there, but not in the way. What we want to see is how the characters react to the changing times, not to read about every last parliamentary procedure, or tiresome debate in the Senate. We need to have a light hand with that ingredient, yet it is just as important as butter is to a good batch of shortbread cookies.One fantasizes about writing the definitive work, and the writer wants to know every single last significant detail about the time, but then it has to be as a thick, velvet curtain at the back of the stage.

When I set out to write a story set in 1630, I  wanted to capture, for myself most of all, what it would have been like to live in back in Boston when Europeans were new to the continent.  I read everything written on the subject and then some. Due to the fact that my characters traveled back to England in the midst of the civil war, I had to cover that as well. Once I began to grasp the enormity of losing every safeguard put in place, and seeing England fall into a military dictatorship, I did want to cover it in great detail. Too much history came the response from my first readers, and so I had to chop and chop. Still, the story of the struggle remains.

While I am not a big reader of the genre known as historical fiction, I do love reading a gripping tale when I feel as if I have been transported to another place and time. To me, that is the key.

Last evening, we set out in the boat from our dock here at the southern end of Lake Coeur d' Alene. Given that we were after hours to some degree, and needed to fill up on gas, we decided to try the town of Harrison. Having always been a fan of the place, I was happy to go over and take our chances. We were told to go up to the bar and find the man who could help us. It gave me time, while standing and holding the boat, to think.

 Harrison has all the makings of a place that time forgot. Handsome brick buildings suggest that it was a town on its way to becoming a small city back in 1890, when a branch of the O.R. And N. railroad put in a stop. A large sawmill, moved up from St.Maries, meant that a substantial operation had begun. However, a large fire broke out at the same mill, in 1917, and  destroyed most of the town. When the steamships discontinued service, they were all but cut off and the town ended up having a different future. It is one of those places, where when looking at it from the water, you sense that you knew what it was like to live there one hundred years ago. As I stood on the dock,  waiting for my husband to return from One Shot Charlies, the bar where the man who could pump the gas happened to be visiting, I thought of potential stories regarding the town and how I always feel that way when I am there.

An enchanted place can often spark the impetus to write historical fiction. Those wanting to know more about the era, will often be drawn to the story.

In the movie, Somewhere in Time, the late Christopher Reeve plays a man who being stumped in his efforts at writing, decides to take a small trip and travel to the famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  Once there, he becomes, captivated and obsessed regarding a photograph in the lobby. Desperate to know the hotel in its hey day and perhaps meet the person capturing his imagination, he accomplishes time travel and returns to 1917.  Of course, this is a metaphor for all writers and are we not lucky, that we have an imagination and picture what that may be like.

Time is running out to enter our contest here at writingnorthidaho. For details, read all about it in the sidebar.A picture can inspire 500 words.


Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Somewhere in of the best movies EVER! I love time-travel stories. I'm thinking of trying my hand at one when I've finished my current work in progress.

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Please do! I love time travel stories too.