Two days ago I read a post called Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone by Margie Gelbwasser (her first YA novel Inconvenient is coming out Nov 2010), and I took up her challenge to write something outside my comfort zone. I chose historical fiction. For two days I've tried to decide where to start, but kept coming up with zero ideas. I enjoy history, and I thought of several time periods and stories that I could do. However, my mind kept giving those stories a sci-fi or fantasy twist putting me right back in my comfort zone. So, I thought it would be better to pull up a timeline and pick something I knew nothing about hoping it would force me to research and take a different approach to the story. There is a lot of history in our world!
How do I narrow in on a time period? What should I write about? Thoughts were struggling to form while my son was bouncing off the walls. Aha, I knew what to do! I took a notebook to the mall so I could ask the other moms what time in history they would like to read about. I don't think I have ever had so much fun at the mall! I loved the strange looks of apprehension as I made my way around the play area. At first I was a little scared too, but soon found myself enjoying it immensely.
I met a teacher who had lots of great ideas (started a list), and I had a nice conversation about my current WIP with a dad there. I had asked him the question early on and then he watched as I made my way around the play area. When I sat back down he came over because he just could not take the curiosity any longer. The cool thing was that I felt totally comfortable explaining my goal and how it related to writing. Practice does make perfect. Every time I talk about my book, it comes out just a little smoother. (NOTE: This is one of the things I left out of my Believing the Label post--my verbal communication skills get really muddled sometime. It is easier for me to find the right words when I write than when I try to speak. I think it has to do with the fact that I can slow down and really think things through first.)
Here are a few conversation snippets:
"Uh, history? I didn't like history in school and don't know anything about it."
"Winter. I like winter and running in the snow."
"Great, is there a favorite time in history you like?"
"The year I was born, 1990."
"Mmm, I would like to read about the old times."
"How far back in time do you mean? Can you give me a general time period like 1800's or something?"
Turning to computer where a black and white monster movie is playing, "Like this movie, old times."
"Who is this in reference to?"
"Me, I want to know if you have a favorite time period."
"Oh." Blank look. "Uh, I don't know, I didn't pay attention in school, but he might have one for you." Points to friend trying on sunglasses.
The last two came as I walked through the mall to the bookstore (I ordered The First Five Pages, see post below). Normally, I dread walking through the mall because I am one of those people that get accosted by the sales people with their kiosks set up in the middle. I don't know why, but it is like I have a big sign that says, "Will talk to anyone and will let you run through your whole spiel before saying no." My husband says it is because I make eye contact with people. Must...not make...eye contact...
Well, this time I walked up to the kiosk, three year old in tow, and asked, "Do you have a favorite time, story, or person in history that you would enjoy reading about? Anywhere in the world, anytime in history." They all had the same "deer in the headlights" look, and not a single one tried to sell me anything. It was really fun turning the tables on those rascals!
So, here are the results of my hour and a half mall poll. There are some good ideas here but I still need to pick just one.
- the 20's
- 3 votes the 50's
- 2 votes the 60's (specifically dealing with the space program--this one calls to me of course, but I think it would be a cop out moving back to science)
- 2 votes the 90's
- Turn of the century (I'm guessing the 1900's with all the explosion of time saving inventions)
- Ancient Egypt
- The American Indians before the Europeans came
- 1800's or whenever the Victorian England took place (her words)
- Imperialism--the history of Britain's expansion
- Medieval Times
- The Roman's and time of Christ
- Research some of the old homes in the US like the Biltmore--how did they get their money?
- and...The Origin of the Universe (once again I think this would qualify as sci-fi)
Out of these things what would YOU like to read about in historical fiction? Vote by leaving a comment.