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Kinda Stuck

Posted: February 6th, 2014, 4:47 pm
by longknife
I've reached a part in my narrative of California history where my characters either have to become personally involved in the convoluted period where one governor follows another, open hostility appears between families of the north and south, rebellion of convicts brought from Mexico, and inroads by foreigners from the USA, Britain, and Russia.

I've shown how the missions teeter on the edge due to secularization and their destruction due to inept and unqualified administrators.

And the novel has already reached over 100,000 words! To cover all of the above would take, at least, another 50,000 words.

I've done all the research and know exactly what happened, when, where and by who. Writing it all out in novel form doesn't bother me.

Is that too much for historical fiction?

Or, can I jump ahead and do a retro where the main characters tell of what happened as if making an entry into a personal journal?

What would you do?

Re: Kinda Stuck

Posted: February 6th, 2014, 5:13 pm
by polymath
Three writing principles come to mind: focus, specificity, and personal experience. What happens at one mission to one focal character from the character's perspective due to larger forces. This is how James Michener managed large sweeps of time and space. Fyodor Dostoevsky too. No one wants to read a bland history report; they went to read about the personal and emotional life complications historical events cause individual people personally. This is about developing the illusion of reality participation mystique for readers so they are in the moment of the action, supporting and feeling and caring and curious about the personal persons' struggles to cope with life's complications.

Re: Kinda Stuck

Posted: February 7th, 2014, 3:42 pm
by LizV
How relevant is the characters' involvement in all that big-picture stuff to the main thrust of your plot?

If, for example, the MC's involvement in the gubernatorial succession is going to have a significant impact on how he deals with the novel's main climax/resolution, then I'd say go with the detailed approach and show his involvement. If, on the other hand, the governor situation is just a backdrop to the story's main action, you could get away with a retro.

I would think historical fiction readers would have more tolerance for digressions due to an inherent interest in the subject, but you still don't want to stray too far from the main focus of your story. Does that make sense?

Re: Kinda Stuck

Posted: February 7th, 2014, 9:18 pm
by longknife
Thanks to both for the comments.

The two main characters - James and his wife, Teresa - have just ridden from San Diego back to Carmel. They learn that James' father - Timothy, one of the main characters of the first three books - had died from a fall from the top of the mainmast of the fishing boat, Responding to the request of the Father Prefect of the missions, they will continue their trek north beyond San Francisco to Napa.

From that point on, their actual involvement is watching the various missions be destroyed by the Mexican government in an effort to "return them to the Indians" which actually opens the doors for giving the land away to the Europeans. They watch the Indians die of starvation or become slaves of the Californio Rancheros.

Having been born in 1769, they are elderly when the Americans first come to California only to return later to take the land from Mexico. Their total effort is to keep what they have, somewhat of a problem as James is a half-breed Mestizo and Teresa is a full-blooded Indian.

It ain't gonna be easy but I'll keep my nose to the grindstone.