Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Peek At My World-building

As I've mentioned before, I love writing historical fiction for kids. I love the challenge of conveying a time period to a group that hasn't experienced many time periods on its own. It's part of my belief that exposure to unfamiliar cultures is essential to building proper perspectives on life and society.

One of the key dynamics of conveying cultures in writing is world-building. World-building gets a lot of press in regards to Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but it is essential to every genre of writing. The task of world-building in historical fiction can be exceptionally daunting, because it's less "world-building" and more "world-acquiring."

Take the example of James Cameron in making Titanic. Not only did he have to amass as many historical facts and figures as he could, he also had to recreate the culture and character traits common in 1912. To do this, he immersed himself and his cast and crew into the world. They had videos playing in every dressing room portraying life in 1912, music of the era playing everywhere, and brought in as many experts on the culture of the day as they did on the sinking of the ship. And those efforts paid off in a big way.

When I write, I attempt to do the same. Besides studying the historical events and facts, I also immerse myself in the culture of the time period I'm writing. My playlist is filled with music of the day, my TV watching is imbued with period appropriate shows, my desktop background is a rotating gallery of art popular at the time. I try to eat food my characters might eat, talk as they might have talked, and even occasionally dress like them, if I can get away with it. (Thankfully, I have a wife who will reign me back in if things start going overboard)

For instance, when I was writing and editing my book, Johnny Cannon and the Bay of Guinea Pigs, I had to be in 1961. One of the first things I did was make a playlist of songs from '61 and '62, and I listened to those songs through every step of the process. Now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, here are the first ten songs that were on that list of over 100. (I may post more on another date)


Artist Track
Ben E. King  Stand By Me 
Patsy Cline  Crazy 
Dion  The Wanderer 
Dion  Runaround Sue 
Roy Orbison  Crying 
Ray Charles  Hit The Road Jack 
Del Shannon  Runaway 
Gary "U.S." Bonds  Quarter to Three 
The Showmen  It Will Stand

2 comments:

The Zombie Mamma said...

I do the exact same thing. How can you write what you don't know? Not only is immersing yourself in a different time or culture educational and beneficial to your writing, it's also incredibly fun!

Isaiah Campbell said...

@The Zombie Mamma - Absolutely, so much fun! My wife is dreading the day I feel inspired to write a medieval sword and sorcery tale, though.