Writing in Period

April 25, 2011

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As an author, it is important to read; a lot. Reading other works broadens your vision and provides examples of both good and bad expression. Reading a wide range of works will also help develop the appropriate attitudes of your characters.

If you place your story in the early seventeen century, you need to have an understanding of what “real” people believed and sought during that time. If you create a crowd of characters to whom “free love” and “equality” were social norms, you fall into the trap of inserting your values or the values of the society in which you live into an inappropriate scheme. Just as setting a story in the late twentieth century with public figures extolling the virtues of slavery would be just plain wrong. That is not to say that such inconsistencies would not create a story in themselves, just that period writing should be consistent.

There are plenty of efforts to suggest that Shakespeare was a women’s rights advocate. There is no real evidence to support that he actually was, but his writings transposed to the 1970’s could be used to support the efforts of modern women. We all insert our biases into our writing, the true victory is to appreciate the reality of the times we wish to write about.

One of the easiest themes to use is the future. With the future as your background, you can expound on any philosophy or social norm that you desire. The future can be any ideal that you want. The pitfall in this area is to eliminate any consequences; creating utopias. Life shows that there is no universal utopia. This is not so say that such conditions cannot be met, just that with any group of people, there is a struggle for superiority, no matter how petty.

The surest method of keeping within period is to write about your own times. Your story will still be colored by your personal beliefs and the problems of the day, but it will be honest and provide source material for future writers.

Each of us contributes to the whole of literature, regardless of talent or purpose. From the first invention of writing, we started to capture stories and keep them in their original forms. Oral tradition is a fantastic way of keeping a culture together, but when that culture is reduced by catastrophe, natural or man made, much of that tradition can be lost. Writing things down does not insure that it will endure, just as much was lost with the burning of the library at Alexandria, or the loss of any work for that matter. Not all works are protected, but all impact the works that follow. All of us who have the opportunity to compose have continued to contribute to the whole. Because of this influence we have the responsibility to be as diligent as possible in all of our efforts.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. thelamest(dot)com
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 01:28:34

    I think this is a very very valid point and absolute masters of this are the Coen Brothers. True Grit, Miller’s Crossing, Man Who Wasn’t There and Oh Brother transport you to another time while Raising Arizona and Fargo transport you to a specific place with specific people in the present.


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