Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What did they say??

Revising Song of the Day: "Try Again" by Aaliyah (Check it out on our Rock With Us tab)

I'm revising the mess out of my historical YA, trying to make it pretty for querying...but I'm in that level (pun intended--my manuscript is called In Limbo, tee hee!) that kinda sucks. The fact checking level.

I have to make sure I'm not using present day slang and phrases. For example, I wanted to talk about music and I automatically wrote CD player, then record player...then I looked it up and realized that in 1918 they called them phonographs. Which then leads to what did they call the records they played on them? Records, Vinyls, Albums? It all gets really, really shaky. So I tried to look up slang/English language in 1918. I didn't find anything that different but there were a few key phrases that I made sure to throw in...

Rotary dialing = Dialing on a (Home) telephone (so archaic, right!)
Fooling = joking around
Neat/Cool/Swell = well...neat, or cool, awesome etc. :)
Sweetheart = Girlfriend/Boyfriend ie going steady
Colored = African American
Soda pop = obviously, soda
Denims = jeans

And it goes on and on...

The words weren't all that different--some of them we even use today. I guess the point is to make sure that I don't have one of my characters say/do anything that is too 21st century and also watch out for making the material too dated. I am hoping to have a book that is obviously historical but that can be relatable for every generation. Is that too much to ask???

What about you, lovely readers? If you write historical how do you get past the fact checking slump? If you read it, what are some great books that you can think of that are timeless?


Ann Bedichek Braden said...

Oh, the fact checking drives you crazy, doesn't it? The little things take so much time! I think I spent a whole week trying to figure out what kind of boats they used to ship things up and down the Connecticut river in 1790. It made me want to scream!

KO said...

I think the fact checking is important, but it can boggle the mind. I am not doing anything historical... yet, but in my current WIP there is a lot about nature and plants. I'm super paranoid that I will say a plant blooms at the wrong time or an insect is found in the wrong habitat. It can make you crazy. I think balance is important. It's not a scientific paper (or a historical paper, in your case), accuracy is important, sloppiness is unforgiveable, but it is still fiction. As long as it doesn't take readers out of the story, I think there can be a little wiggle room.

Alicia Gregoire said...

And this is why I don't write historical. LOL

Abby Stevens said...

My husband was going through my contemporary fantasy saying, "Fact check, fact check, are there mosquitoes in Ireland?," lol. I've never written historical, but Jaclyn Dolamore wrote a great post about getting period voice right recently:


Also, I love your little snippet of word differences! Soda pop... it's funny how half the country now calls it soda and half calls it pop (well, I suppose you could say a third each calls it soda and pop and another third calls anything carbonated and amber-colored Coke.)

Abby Stevens said...

^ I hear you on that one, Alicia! Although I bet aspects of it are fun!

Meredith said...

Historical writer here. And YES YES A HUNDRED TIMES YES! Sorry for shouting, but I totally feel you. I have one crit partner who has become invaluable in pointing out phrases that don't feel right for the times.

There are times writing historical can feel overwhelming, like when you find yourself questioning every tiny thing you write. Por ejemplo, my mss is set in medieval England. I wrote chapter after chapter where my main character hid something in her pocket, and it didn't dawn on me for like 200 pages to check to make sure clothing even had pockets way back when. (Turns out they did—whew!) But yes, I understand completely!

Ann Bedichek Braden said...

I had my whole manuscript practically hinge on someone seeing a name and address on an envelope only to find out envelopes weren't used in 1790.

Racquel Henry said...

Wow! It's crazy how words evolve over time! Good luck with your fact checking level. I'm sure you will nail it and soon we will all be reading that brilliant novel, In Limbo. :)

ali said...

Hey Quita! Found your blog through Windy. *waving*

I don't write historical mainly because all those requirements (not too dated, but not too 21st century) hurts my brain! But I love to read them! Good luck on your polishing!

Marquita Hockaday said...

Wow :) Thanks for all the comment, peeps! Meredith, I am so glad there were pockets then :)
Ann, the envelope thing sucks!

Abby, thanks for that link. I saved it to my faves so I can refer back to it!

Alicia, I hear ya. This is why I'm working on a contemp. next ;)

Ali, thanks for following us *waves back*

Amie Kaufman said...

I'm doing early research on my historical now. For me, the trick is to read sources that involve stories or some kind of narrative. They keep me more engaged.