A DIFFERENT TIME AND PLACE
I write historical stories and constantly worry I’ve overlooked something. Most likely, I have. Anachronistic traps hide everywhere. I hadn’t realized pre-colonial Maryland indentured servants went barefooted because shoes costs too much, or Governor Calvert didn’t call his courts to session with a gavel because gavels used in meetings didn’t happen until the 1800s. Most of us take for granted common items and actions and assume they’ve always been around.
WHAT TO DO:
Only our own diligence, and asking other eyes to search our writing, will prevent us from inserting out of time or place items into our writing.
Another, somewhat larger, historical-writing issue comes from a lack of primary source materials.While writing my newest book, The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor: Margaret Brent, Pre-Colonial Maryland 1638-1648, a suspenseful historical biography, I faced unending research challenges. Margaret Brent, the protagonist, left no letters, diaries, journals, or primary source information except her 124 documented cases she tried in the courts of pre-colonial Maryland. Thankfully, Dr. Lois Carr organized and recorded this information now stored in the Maryland State Archives. Yet, her study of Margaret Brent caused her to make a list of items left to question. These unanswered problems stuck in my mind, further motivating me to write this book.
WHAT TO DO:
My research happened in three different levels. I did an overview of the historical characters, social events, and places. Still much more needed to be uncovered, so I started my story and honed in on specific research topics for each chapter. Not satisfied, I started back at the beginning of all my researching (groan) and examined everything for a deeper leveling of meaning. With little primary source material, I studied the political-social time, the environment, and any information I could find about Margaret Brent’s neighbors, along with the prominent men around her. Remember, men ruled and their deeds ended up in the records. Spending those diligent hours revisiting and enhancing what I’d already studied brought me many rewarding “Aha!” moments.
Even without primary source information from my protagonist, pre-colonial life with individual accomplishments and difficulties became clear. This knowledge pointed to many probable deep-emotional conflicts. Dr. Lois Carr’s questions now have some logical answers.
Join me when I discuss FACTS THAT AREN’T in Part II.
MY NEXT POSTS:
-Facts that aren’t
-Snap Assumptions – Logical Assumptions
-Perpetuating erroneous information
What are some research stumbling blocks you’ve found, and did you climb over them?
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