Take Readers Time Travelling by Dropping in Small Period Perfect Details with Beth Daniels

Craft Take Readers Time Travelling by Dropping in Small Period Perfect Details with Beth Daniels

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Characters, Dialogue, Structure, Genre, POV, Voice, Worldbuilding, Writer's Life
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I’m a historian – even have a degree to prove it – but I’m also a fan of DR. WHO, my favorite episodes those where a trip is taken back in time. Not that, should the TARDIS land in my yard, I’d want to stay in any part of the past during a heat wave or for dinner. I’d need to return to correctly preserved food and air conditioning. However, what a journey in a time machine would give me would be details that make my story as period perfect as possible – although the characters lean toward rather modern ideas at times. They can’t help it. They’re headed toward the future, are ahead of their times. My grandmother was a woman like that, leaving her small town for opportunities in the city…on her own.

What I like to do is take a journey like Grandma did. Learn what the names of the shops were where my heroine buys clothing or food, discover how far she lives from the trolley or traction line stop or the train depot, post road, docks, air field, livery stable. Heck, what the name of the railroad is that she might board to head elsewhere, how long it takes to get from one place to another, and what time whatever type of transportation is being used leaves town. I want addresses, prices! I want to know who is playing at which theatre and how diverse the acts are for the vaudeville performance or which play is being presented. Where will she go to meet possible suitors and what dances will they do, what is the name of their favorite song? What restaurant or café might she visit and what’s on the menu? So many fascinating things to discover, and they are all small tidbits to weave into a story’s historical setting.

In the past I’ve read issues of the Cheyenne DAILY LEADER from 1877, scanned down handwritten census sheets for names and professions, got a magnifying glass out to peer at old maps of London and the English countryside (and for Texas, too), leafed through a year’s worth of DEMOREST’S LADIES MAGAZINE (1879), and read primary resources to get the feel for language as well as gather names and addresses to drop.

Care to join me on an adventure into the miniscule elements of historical research? I’ve leased the TARDIS for a fact gathering trip into the past. Fortunately, it’s bigger on the inside so we’ll all be comfortable for four weeks of detail collecting!
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