Writing stories set in years (or even centuries) past, especially in a specific time/location is always a challenge – of course the events that occur within said tale are completely from the imagination of the author, but then there’s that pesky thing called historical accuracy, which is critical if one is writing historical fiction (of any genre). From fashion to social mores, political alliances to scientific discoveries, nothing damages a story’s credibility than inaccurate details and anachronisms, so there should be time allotted to researching various aspects of the time period and the place(s) about which one is writing.
Then again, if one is writing about a completely fictional place and time, an alternative/mirror universe from reality as we know it, and/or about a far-flung future, the research for historical accuracy does not apply; rather, a (quasi) different kind of research should be contemplated and undertaken. Off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozens (or more) stories be it in other published novels, TV programs, or movies, that are set in an entirely fictional place in far off times (past or future) as well as stories set in the far future – research needs to be made into these universes to ensure that the one being creative is different ( or at least different enough) from those that already exist. After all, there are only so many archetype stories out there, yet almost an infinite number of permutations and variations on those themes.
Naturally, as my stories are set in a quasi alternative universe from our own, in fictional towns/cities within actual locations and is set in far in the past, not-so-far present and farther future, I have a good amount of historical research to conduct, along with ensuring continuity in the historical “facts” I create and skew for the purposes of telling my stories. I’ve always had a great interest in history (and even minored in history when I was at university), learning all there was to learn about bygone days in far off places and within the country where I reside. I am a firm believer in the adage by philosopher George Santayana, which states “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. True in real life, it can (and should) apply to those in the fictional realm, though whether or not my characters choose to learn from their mistakes or actions is up to them.
But I digress.
As mentioned in other blog posts, character building and creating exposition is as vital a component to writing a story as the story itself – exposition of the surroundings and the characters within and their relationship to one another as well as to their surroundings is the foundation on which a narrative must be built. I tend to do both concurrently – work on the narrative and ponder ideas about character relationships (or lack thereof), family history and how that intertwines (or conflicts) with the social and/or political history that surrounds them. Since there is to be a quasi linear historical flow within the Epic Saga that is the MASC Chronicles, much pondering and musing is done toward the latter task, to the point I have created timelines and family tree diagrams (via Microsoft PowerPoint) to pinpoint and clarify who goes where and when and why and how they impact what happens at any given point over the course of several centuries.
Or at least that’s the plan, so far.
It’s akin to the Butterfly Effect – wherein one minute change can have an exponential impact on the future. At the moment, there are a multitude of these fluttering about – color coordinated, too (I tend to color coordinate ideas to keep track of where they originated and chart musings and ideas – it helps to have multicolored pens, Post-It notes and a varied color palette within Microsoft Word).
I was going somewhere with this blog post when I first started it, but I think I may have digressed too far.
My current status on the stories I’m writing is in that concurrent place of writing the narrative and pondering/researching ideas/events that might have, could have or have had occurred, as well as those that have yet to take place.
Time is certainly a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball of stuff, yet even with this nebulous confluence of… stuff, there has to be a semblance of solid foundation on which the ambiguous, unfixed points in time/space can exist and be as vague or lucid as they want to be.
Onward to research, exposition and writing!