Saturday, November 26, 2011

Writing Tip #9

My NaNo novel is not even close to being complete. It's at 15,000 words and falling to bits. Mainly, I keep hitting this major issue of trying to decide what the hell I'm going for. On one hand, it's a fantasy. It has demons, spirits, and general supernatural stuff like demonic powers. On the other hand, however, most of that isn't 100% fictional. A lot of it has roots in mythology, religious texts, and the general knowledge (whether or not you believe in it is another thing) of how we understand demons, ghosts, energy, and death.

Unfortunately, it also has a huge amount of influence by Catholicism. I say "unfortunately" because religion is always touchy. I'm well aware that very few people will be able to look at this story the way I intend it, and the last think I'm trying to get my readers to do is go fall in love with someone who signed their soul over to the devil. It's intended to be a story about sacrifice and redemption, not devil worship and murder.

The biggest problem is that my story is set tentatively in the 1400s or so in an alternate, more fantasy-like England. This brings me (finally) to my next writing tip.

Tip #9: Accuracy Versus Perceived Accuracy

One of the things I really prided myself on when writing Among the People Lost was my attention to detail and keeping things very accurate. I used a car at one point that had front-wheel drive, so I researched what cars are front-wheel drive. I know most people wouldn't catch the details like that, but for the car people who read that, they'll think it's impressive that I was right.

Naturally, since The Devil's Blade takes place in a 1400s setting, I did research on the middle ages to be as accurate as possible. I then realized that I was screwed.

When you think of chivalry and medieval romance, you probably think of something like knights wooing the local women with flowers and kisses on the hand and such. That would have been doable. What I learned, though, is that the romantic kiss-on-the-hand came 200-300 years later, and no one gave flowers. Instead, it was all love letters, singing, and poetry. I think the Grim Reaper would lose at least half of his badass points if he regularly burst into a romantic song or poem. 

Clothing is also an issue. You certainly don't think of a reaper running around in tights, pointy shoes, and a doublet, or the female love interest of the story wearing an unattractive, shapeless gown sort of thing and covering her head.

It's becoming more and more obvious as I write this that I can't have a halfway decent romance novel if I don't break away from medieval accuracy and aim for a more medieval fantasy setting. Most people are going to think a kiss on the hand is totally time-period appropriate anyway, so why not use it? Boots existed. They may not have been common, but who cares? Let's put the reaper in boots. So what if no one gave flowers? Let him give her a rose, dew frozen on the petals by the cold that emanates from his unearthly body.

There's this big gap between how the middle ages actually were and how we tend to think of them. The truth is, medieval romance is outdated. It's not even what we would consider "romantic" anymore, in a lot of cases. Beyond that, most marriages were arranged until the 1600s. This story wouldn't even be happening.

Some things need to stay the same regardless, though. Premarital sex (which there is admittedly a lot of in Among the People Lost) is pretty much out of the question, especially given that both main characters are religious. Jewelry and women's rights are minimal at best. My lead female won't be going around doing any fighting like Solstice does in Among the People Lost. Religion plays a big part in every day life; this is when Catholicism really got big, and that can't really change.

I've really just hit this point where I have to abandon a lot of accuracy to get the effect I want to get. It goes against everything I taught myself to do when writing science fiction, but fantasy is not science fiction. There's much more room to modernize and adapt, and sometimes, that's what you need to do. 

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