Saturday, February 27, 2010

What year is this?

When I set out to do historical fiction I was advised to tread carefully, readers quickly catch on to inaccuracies. Seemed easy enough, just plan well, take some notes etc. Flash forward to my last writing session.

I had sent a goal and was only on w0rd 401 for the day. The first paragraph went fabulously. Then, each word became so difficult to plunk out- slow and I'd even say painful. It is difficult being fully aware that you are writing slush pile material, but still pressing on, knowing that you can't edit what isn't written. Giving up wasn't an option.

Join my brain in progress...The main character is having her hair done for a family photo. That is where the trouble started. What kind of hairstyle? Went to the trusty Internet for some pictures. Realizing that the style I was thinking of was in the wrong decade. One m character is a musician and part of the jazz era. Then I realized the car I'd given him wasn't created yet!

Thus began a desperate search through the 20's, 30's and 40's to attempt to pinpoint the year. Ahhhh! He couldn't drive a 40's Plymouth, have his favorite song be on the radio in the 30's and get into speakeasies. Well, I guess he could in my mind but it didn't translate to the written word well. Now I am faced with having to deal with the Depression or World War II. Sigh. How could a hair style lead to so much bewilderment?

Here is the funny part. My husband who is neither a writer, nor a fan of reading came home late from work. Needing to get these "hefty" ideas out of my head to keep my sanity, I share my dilemma. His eyebrow went up on one side, thoughtfully. I told my beloved that the writing was junk that day but I found out a few new things. Frank (my imaginary character) finally agreed to do.....and then....well his wife was not happy about THAT....and then Lizzy (the daughter) was at school and some girl said to her, "Everyone knows your dad is a lousy drunk!" I told him how my character responded. Am I rambling yet? I imagine so, you should see inside my head :).

As the writer, I was surprised to find out that the whole town already knew about Frank. And Lizzy surprised me by slapping another character! I concluded at least I learned something new about my story.

My husband was still staring at me like I was crazy. He calmly said, "She pinched her?" Then he started chuckling as he walked up the stairs. I was stunned. All that mental effort and that is what he took away from this genius plot?!?

What must it be like to love a writer? Someone who seems somewhat normal but talks about her characters as if they were alive. And he surely can't understand how I can be as surprised as the next person when there are new revelations about my fictional friends.

How about you, ever feel like you are somewhat caught in your writing; in the specifics of time or character? Can anyone relate?

Now, back to the turn of the century I go to start again. I have got to know what year my story takes place. After all, Frank needs a new suit for his photography session and I don't want him to be out of style...

Christa Sterken


  1. Too funny Christa! Just this week a writing friend and I were talking in the Ace Hardware parking lot about the characters in her WIP. I startd to ask her additional questions about their situation and then realized that it hadn't been written yet! I literally forgot for a moment that they were characters!

  2. Christa, your post made me laugh because the same thing happens to me. One night my husband and I were out to dinner and I told him what happened to Oksana that day. (She's a teen orphan in my wip.)Tears filled my eyes as I told him how no one was there for her and how alone she felt. He looked at me, reached for my hand to console me, and said, "Michelle, pull yourself together. This is fiction, right?"

  3. Well, he must be used to it by now. Shows how much writers have to do their historical homework to ring true. Good insight! No, I am not a writer!