I’m not a professional writer but when Sarah Hoyt posted this: https://accordingtohoyt.com/2016/10/05/roles/
“It’s the main characters, you see. One is an artist, the other is an art dealer, the other is a journalist, the other is a famous gambler. All of them are society ladies in the regency.”
It poked one of my pet peeves, not doing the homework to create a valid environment for the story’s stage. Now I’m not saying that you should do extensive research before writing a novel, but if you are not familiar with a time period, it would behoove you to find some things out about it. Especially why upper class women were concerned with home management.
Apparently the authors here didn’t, could not be bothered to find out exactly how women lived in the period of 1788-1820, the period that George III was mentally ill and George IV had to act as regent. It’s apparent that the author’s involved did not do their homework and lost Sarah due to the lack of veracity.
Let’s look at the positions presented. First the artist. Now it’s possible to be an artist, but in order to be accepted as more than a dabbler you would have to attend one of the schools, which would mean that you would, as a women have to have VERY indulgent parents because the art academies were NOT cheap.
“Objects from everyday life A typical landscape piece of a wooded area A battle scene from the French Revolution A realistic painting of people enjoying a fair in 1804 A painting of a typical Regency home’s interior Regency paintings of women often were nude or at least showing a bit of skin. (Not always, but it was certainly common.)This seems to borrow from the Greek and Roman concepts of admiring and embracing “natural beauty”. To call yourself a skilled artist in the Regency era, you typically had to be wealthy, because art school was very expensive. Additionally, although women were allowed to attend art school, their artwork was considered by many to be inferior and there are few notable female artists from this period. The most notorious art school during this time period was the Royal Academy of Art in London, which still exists today. Despite the fact that only wealthy artists could make a living off of their art, many people during the Regency era “dabbled” in all different forms of art, including theatrical and musical art.”
Now as for art dealers, I doubt that they existed during the late 1700’s. Art was usually commissioned by the purchaser directly from the artist ot was the the result of war souvenirs. Dealing in art would have to wait until later in the industrial revolution. Museum also did not exist in the eighteenth Century, only coming slightly later.
Now as for the journalist, the profession of journalism didn’t exist mostly due to the issue of communication and travel. In the early 19th Century, the railroads, steamships and the telegraph didn’t exist yet. So the access to news was fairly limited and usually put up on broadsheets for most places by the printing houses. London did have newspapers and periodicals, but print runs were small before the rotary presses.
Which brings up the final point. People were circumscribed by the technologies and what those technologies involved. The more manual labor involved, the more people doing manual labor keeping those big houses running and the bigger the job, which was the responsibility of the lady of the house, keeping the house running. The men were, when young all too often off in the colonies trying to make their fortunes when they weren’t shooting at other young men over across the channel, which during the Regency, was a big part of life, thanks to the French and a man named Bonaparte. All these things tended to kill young available men at a great rate, due to bullets, wounds and diseases in one tropic hellhole or another. This sort of reduced the numbers of properly eligible men during the Regency which is part of the reason for the endless desperate husband hunting.
Sarah followed up with this: https://accordingtohoyt.com/2016/10/08/research/
The only conclusion is that in this day and age of the information superhighway, that the authors involved cared so little about their readers that they could not be bothered to do even a little homework. This is in stark contrast to writers in the past who went far out of their way, before the internet to try to make things as real as possible. One of the reasons that so many authors lived in NYC or nearby was access to the research branch of the NY Public Library, the one with lions in front.
These days research is easy. When I consider how hard I had to dig for stuff for high school and college term papers, I would have killed for a Wikipedia. Let alone Google. The largest databases of more stuff than most people could imagine are right out there at people’s fingertips.
In this day and age a little Google work goes a long way. In the space of a very short time, I was able to find a great deal about the Regency, even though it’s not a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, especially Jane Austen style romances. Here’s some links:
As an example of what can be accomplished using research properly The manga Emma is a perfect case. Culturally and distance wise Contemporary Japan is about as far away from Victorian Britain as one could possibly be, yet because of the obvious work and research that went behind Emma and William’s story, the manga works.
In the anime, you keep going back looking for details, like the teasmade, in the crystal palace, and in other places. The devil is always in the details. If you take the time to get the details right, the reader will be more comfortable with the story. The more that the reader feels comfortable, the less likely that the reader will stop and quit. Or throw the book across the room. The reader can sense when the author is not really comfortable in the world they are writing about. Even in a turgid, full of sex romance novel it’s easy to sense the places where things are skipped over.
In this day and age an author doesn’t need to do that. Even the most obscure thing has it’s advocates and forums. Just about everything has some interest group of enthusiasts chasing it and filling in the details. The fun thing is that most of these groups are online. And willing to answer questions, indeed eager to answer questions about their enthusiasms. Then there are all those blogs. The ones above for instance on various aspects of life in the Regency. Those were for the most part, just the result of a Google search.
I do a lot of research for this blog, most of it in fairly obscure subjects. My series of posts on WW1, for instance, like this one.
And this one.
The fact is that these days detailed information about even the most obscure subject is readily available with a little looking. We have access to databases that even 20 years ago would have been unimaginable. Here’s three more examples from my blog.
The first is a post about the narrow gauge trains used to transport materiel to the trenches in WW1. Back in my high school days, researching this would have been very difficult, if not impossible and I would have been lucky to get a picture and an encyclopedia reference. Now, with an hour or so’s googling and looking at some websites, I have enough information to write up a detailed essay with pictures, sources and video inserted. All in less than a day.
This post is based on some newsreel footage I discovered on YouTube one day. The story about the woman travelling around the woman in a Zeppelin was fascinating so I did some looking and research, found some stuff and did a post. All of which would be very useful if you were say doing a diesel punk story. Or a story about the 1920’s and 1930’s leading up to WW2. Again the post is loaded up with pictures and links, material that would have been unavailable not so long ago and the it didn’t take that long to collect the materials.
The third post is about the very short career of the French liner Normandie in the 1930’s and it’s tragic end in a fire next to a Hudson River pier. I knew about the ship from an old Time Life Seafarers series book on oceanliners and did some googling and a little digging based on the old book which I still had and found all sorts of stuff.
None of the research in these posts took more than a couple of hours. And I found more stuff than I could actually use in a simple blog post. Maybe it’s because I like knowing as much as I can find. I also need to frequently perform searches for some strange widget in my engineering work so I’ve had a lot of practice drilling down to find truly obscure stuff. So I’ve managed somehow to get very good at using search tools. That’s a skill that can be learned and a writer should really learn that skill.
Here’s my tool kit for researching something, more or less in order of importance.
Google. Yes I know. But often times a research dive(I’m stealing this from “Ghost In The Shell) starts with a query or question right on the address bar which links to google. Which all too frequently has some answers. The more noncommercial the topic, the better the search results.
The other search engines. Each of them has a different algorithm and may produce different results. All too frequently Bing say, will bring something to the top of a list that Google buried three pages under.
Wikipedia. Wiki has entries covering almost everything. More to the point, the Wiki entries have references and sources. While the entries themselves may be lacking the sources and websites are a good way to track down what you need.
Enthusiast websites. Even the most obscure topic has it’s enthusiasts. Who will buld websites and forums and talk endlessly about their hobby. Go there and ask questions. Case in point, a writer posted on the New Haven Railroad Historical Society Forum about commuting to NYC in the1930-1950 era from CT. And promptly got all the answers she needed. Railroad historical societies are just one aspect of enthusiast sites.
Pinterest. I just started playing with this a few weeks ago. When doing Google picture searches links to Pinterest kept showing up and I checked the site out. I’ve found the site addictive because you can get pictures of just about everything and organize them. For instance WW1.
The stuff I found in Pinterest led to the post about plastic surgery in WW1. I kept seeing horribly disfigured faces in WW1 pics and decided to follow up. I sent that post to the people at the Great War video YouTube series and they used the material.
Then there’s probably the most important thing a writer can research, the writers in the genre before them.
In this day and age, just about everything up through the 1960’s is online through project, Guttenberg, the Internet archive or on kindle if it was obscure enough to fall out of print. If you intend to write science fiction or fantasy, you should take it upon yourself to read the old stuff, good and bad. Many of the old magazines and books are online for free in the Internet Archive. Why not do some reading. The same goes for the old mystery pulps. One way or another the stuff can be found. An author should read this stuff so that they know what’s old hat and what is expected in a story. There’s also the fact that ideas may pop out of nowhere and fill your writing with actual life and allow it to escape the tired old tropes. It’s better to read before you write.
How many times do I have to say it? If you’re going to write something, research it.
Sure if it’s historical or science and even if you are an expert on both or either, you’re going to make mistakes. Partly you’re going to make mistakes because you’re human. Even say, about Elizabethan England, where I know tons of things, there are things I don’t know, and I’ll come across it and go “Uh, they did WHAT?”
Or take when I was writing the Musketeers mysteries. This mind you was when the internet was but a toddler, just learning to walk, and not able to say “Dada”. I found nothing about how laundry was done in the time of the musketeers in Paris. I needed that for Death of a Musketeer. So I assumed it was done the same way it was done in the rest of Europe and put that…
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