Staying Inspired When Writing in a Place / Time I’ve Never Experienced
By Jeff Salter
Topic: How do you stay inspired to write a story set in a time and/or place that’s totally different from where you are?
I thought I had covered one aspect of this topic in a fairly recent post about research… but I cannot locate it. Maybe I blogged it elsewhere… or maybe I dreamed it. Whatever — here goes:
A place / period that I’ve never experienced, but is featured in one of my novels, is the “Wild West” of the 1880s. In many respects, that was NOT a stretch for me… as I had spent many of my childhood years BEING a cowboy. [Well, at least the Hollywood and TV versions of cowboys, lawmen, and outlaws.]
In fact (after I began my research for my novel) it was a big eye-opener for me — that people dressed so differently and lived in such different conditions… than what I’d seen on the big screen and television during my formative years. [Note: picture the gaudily-clad Roy Rogers on a real 1880s cattle drive.]
To conduct this research, I began with reading three of the most famous Western authors – Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Max Brand – and added several new authors who’d received high review marks for their authenticity. I didn’t stop at fiction, of course. I scoured the Internet for details about apparel, food, terminology, etc.
Want to know what I learned, overall? That I’d be a LOT more able to cope with the creature comforts of the Hollywood / TV versions of the Wild West!
Here’s a bit more about my research into classic westerns and famous western authors:
Another example (of a different time/place) was my novel set in Western France during the Normandy Invasion in World War II. I felt quite comfortable in that setting, as I’ve read many scores of books and many hundreds of articles on various aspects of that war. That said, I read or re-read two or three books which dealt specifically with a particular division / regiment / battalion in those early hours of D-Day. I wanted my facts to be as accurate as possible… and certainly did not want to place elements of those units in the wrong places or at the wrong times.
Though I would never wish to experience the hardships and sacrifices of actual combat, I believe I could find a degree of comfort with that WW2 era. Well, if not “comfort” per se, at least familiarity.
Here’s a blog about time travel itself… which is KINDA related:
Question: What about YOU? Ever written about a time / place you’ve never experienced? Was it EASY to “get into” that setting?
[JLS # 553]