Sunday, May 18, 2008

visualising dairy buckets

Over on my Ask Nicola blog I had another question about writing. I answered it at length, but thought those who have been following my Hild-writing process might enjoy a snippet:

Sometimes I can have a good writing day yet not write much. This is happening more than usual at the moment, and it's related to writing historical fiction. Writing mainstream fiction is easy--everyone knows what a bed is like, what people eat and wear, how things work. For the seventh century--unlike, say, Regency England (the rake, the dandy, the ball, dance cards), or WWII (the Blitz, rationing, grey skies filled with barrage balloons, weak tea)--there are no handy plug-ins. I have to invent everything, every single thing, from scratch. If Hild walks into the dairy, what does it look like? (Would there be a dairy? Cows were most likely milked in the field, sheep in a pen.) How do you make cheese when there is no stainless steel? What do you store the milk in with no glass, no refrigeration? (You don't; you turn it into cheese and butter and whey.) How many women/girls does it take to milk how many cows and sheep? What are the buckets made of? (Sycamore, because it doesn't leave a nasty aftertaste in the milk.) And that's just process and artefacts. Social relationships were different, too. I've never written anything full of slavery before, never dealt with a heroic society without literacy. (That changes later, of course.) So a good writing day can be a good inventing/visualising day but a not-many-words-on-the-page day.

The rest can be found here. And now back to reading JLA.

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