SETTING THE STAGE
OH the history of it all! Are there any readers out there who will agree with me that the TV series, Downton Abbey, is possibly the best they’ve ever seen produced? The research must seem daunting, yet it is obvious that their team of writers loves what they are doing and dig deep into history providing authenticity and reality. The lives of the characters of Downton are greatly affected by actual events such as the sinking of the Titanic (etched in my memory because of Molly Brown, resident of Leadville and Denver, Colorado) and World War I. They’ve also lived through the Spanish flu pandemic, the formation of the Irish Free State, the Teapot Dome scandal, and the UK’s general election of 1923. POINT being made: Setting requires historical research on multiple levels.
Below are research tips you might want to consider:
- Think about ancestry. The geographical and cultural influences within that geography will give you excellent foundation for the current setting your characters live in. For example, if they (or their parents) came to the U.S. from Ireland or Italy the setting/stage of their growing up years (or their current environment) would be in distinctive neighborhoods within “The Bronx.” Several Chinese and Japanese migrations created “China and Japanese Towns” in nations, states and cities around the world. It is the ancestral influences of values, attitudes, food preparations, etc. that develops unique settings—distinctive differences in home interiors, office spaces, restaurants, etc.
- Importance of Cultural, Social and Political environment. This aspect also plays into the development of your characters and their perspectives. However, in relation to setting the stage for them, look to the images available online about the time period of your novel. For example: The political stage of Abraham Lincoln’s first nomination for President of the United States is dramatically different from the political stage we see today. Lincoln had only about 18 months of formal schooling, yet practiced law and was accepted as “highly qualified” to be President. He promoted women having “the vote” in 1836. He was the first President to use the telegraph. Yes, indeed, in that Lincoln Era the political stage was a unique place.
- Eras of Historical Significance. Throughout known history those who have a passion for such studies have divided the years into several geographic and national categories. They include Ancient History, The Postclassical Era, and Modern History, which are further delineated with such categories as Ancient Rome or the Six Dynasties (of China), etc. Events (important to a specific setting) that have happened during the Era you’ve selected will give your novel the same authenticity and reality that is mentioned here about Downton Abbey. One other point to consider when researching your specific era is to learn about the population of the city, town or village where your characters came from and are IN currently. This element will help you fine-tune the “feelings” of characters as well as place your readers with them.
AS you’ve probably deciphered by now, research is a big part of novel writing. It is absolutely necessary that you—the writer—are able to “walk the streets” with you characters, cook in their kitchens, sleep in their beds and read the headline stories in their newspapers. If you are able to “set the stage” to such a detailed degree, you’ll most certainly have a BEST SELLER.
|ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.|