Hi! Welcome to Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spring Book & Block Party. (For all the stops and oodles of chances to win a myriad of prizes, check out all the RRBC posts throughout the month-long tour.)
This stop? Staci Troilo’s site currently hosted in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.
Today I’m Giving Prizes to Two Lucky Winners:
First Prize: $15 Amazon Gift Card
Second Prize: Medici Protectorate SWAG Pack
Prizes awarded to US commenters only.
Today I want to talk about weaving history into contemporary stories. I like a good historical tale every once in a while, but I tend to read contemporary fiction a lot more often. That doesn’t mean history has to be abandoned, though.
One of my favorite things to do is research. I used to love writing research papers in school. Sure, I know that makes me sound weird, and maybe I am. But I find it satisfying to learn about ancient cultures—their mythologies, technological advances, beliefs, governing style, etc. (That’s probably why I watch the History Channel so much.)
The Internet has made this research not only easy, but virtually instantaneous. Curious about spear size and shape in the Roman Empire? Recipes in Colonial America? Ascending to the throne in Ancient Egypt? A few keystrokes, a few clicks of the mouse, and boom—there’s your answer(s).
When I write, I might start with some preliminary fact-finding, but I tend to do the majority of my research as I go. It’s just too easy to look things up as questions present themselves, so I don’t have to do all the legwork in advance—legwork that may prove to be a waste of time, because I don’t know what information I’ll need and what is just interesting trivia. (Although, I have to admit, I kind of miss trips to the library and the smell of all the old books spread out on the table in front of me. Nothing quite like that. Ah, the good ol’ days.)
When you’re incorporating your research into your stories, you might be tempted to include all of it. I mean, it’s fascinating stuff, right? That’s why you saved so many posts and articles and stayed online for three hours longer than you needed to (but time management is another topic altogether).
Please don’t include all that information in your story.
As much as you love research (I know I can’t be the only one), this isn’t a report. It’s a story. While it may fascinate you to know that Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity was influenced by his study of alchemy, you really should leave that detail out.
Unless it’s germane to the plot.
If your contemporary (or even futuristic) story happens to deal with gravitational forces—manipulating them, overcoming them, whatever—then that history might be applicable. But it still doesn’t mean you can write the story like a book report. (Sorry, research paper enthusiasts. You know who you are. Or is it still just me?)
When you’re weaving your research into your story, it’s best done if the information is revealed organically. There are a few ways to do it.
- Through conversation.
- Through flashbacks.
- Through exposition.
I know, that doesn’t sound revolutionary. That’s pretty much how we reveal all information. But let me explain.
We’ve all seen those dreadful conversation snippets:
“Well, as you know, Bob, Isaac Newton used his alchemical knowledge to refine his gravitational theories.”
That’s a great example of what not to do. When characters are discussing something, they can reveal new information to each other. Key word there? NEW. Don’t have one character tell another something he should already know just to relay the information to your readers. It comes off as forced, and it takes the reader out of the story.
In the Medici Protectorate series, the heroes of the story are four men who have been tasked with guarding the four heroines. The women have no idea that they are secret descendants of the Medici. When it’s clear they are in danger, the men reveal their history to them in a group meeting. This isn’t the “As you know, Bob” type of dialogue. This information is new to both the readers and the characters, so the conversation isn’t stilted or awkward.
This is a great way to impart historical information. Granted, a girl born in 1971 isn’t going to be able to remember Atlantis before it fell into the sea, but she can remember learning about Plato’s Socratic tale of the mythical empire.
In the Medici Protectorate series, I use an immortal to pass knowledge down to characters. (Back to that alchemy-thing again.) Having mastered the powers of the Philosopher’s Stone, my character conquered death and has been alive since the 1500s. He reveals important details to the characters through his direct memories.
Finally, the fastest way to tell the characters something is to actually tell them. This goes against the standard show-don’t-tell philosophy, but sometimes that’s okay. You want to show important information through your characters interacting, but sometimes you need to just give the reader some details without smelling lilacs on the breeze or tasting every flavor nuance of a gourmet meal.
This fast and easy information reveal is best done through exposition.
Be careful with this tool, though. Used too frequently or lasting too long, and it becomes an information dump. You don’t want that.
In the Medici Protectorate series, the four leading women own a building and design business. Franki, the architect, is working on designs for a corporate campus whose exterior will blend in with old world Italian architecture while the interior will sport all the modern conveniences and state-of-the-art advancements. As she’s working on the project, she reflects on Italian architecture and design (this design is actually pertinent to the plot, so it’s not extraneous information). This is knowledge she has from her education as well as from a visit to Italy, so while she’s thinking about this information, reflecting on these details makes sense. She’d sound professorial if she talked about it with other characters, and there’s really not much for her to think back on, so exposition is the best way to reveal this information to the reader.
I’m really enjoying writing the Medici Protectorate series. It started because of my heritage, but through extensive research, it’s morphed into a contemporary romantic suspense saga with a lot of fascinating historical relevance. I’ve learned about and incorporated Italian political information, Medici family histories, ancient Roman architecture and mythology, alchemical properties, and martial arts battle tactics into this series. That’s a lot of history for a modern tale, but the research was fun and the details add a richness to the work.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found a strategy you can use in your own work, and maybe some of my examples will entice you to look at the Medici Protectorate series. It really has a little something for everyone in it.
Remember, leave a comment for a chance to win one of my prizes, and don’t forget to visit the other blogs today and all month long.
Medici Protectorate Series Premise: The four Notaro sisters are the secret legacy of the Medici, famed rulers of Italy. Michelangelo promised his Medician benefactor that he’d always watch over the family, and as such, he formed the Medici Protectorate to guard them throughout the generations. Now, Italy is in political turmoil and revolution is imminent. The people are calling for new rulers, and the Notaros are poised to assume control. But a nefarious opposing faction wants the power for themselves. Never was the family in more jeopardy. The four sisters are protected by the Brotherhood—four elite warriors of the Medici Protectorate prophesied to keep the family safe until they fulfill their destinies. They journey around the world in an effort to keep the family safe and the future of Italy secure.
Book One, Bleeding Heart: Gianni, a warrior destined to defend the secret legacy of the Medici, protects his charge Francesca from a prophesied assassin. Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and he must conquer her fears and his demons in time to save them both. Released August 2015.
Book Two, Mind Control: Vinnie copes with his own identity issues while he struggles to protect the one prophesized Medici descendant, Jo, who refuses to embrace her heritage. With lives in peril, can they find the strength to overcome their tragic pasts, or is it too late? Released June 2016.
Book Three, Body Armor: Nico works to increase his powers and save the Notaro family matriarch, but his private agendas put his charge Donni’s life at risk. When secrets and lies result in three abductions, the group will need to place their trust him to save them all. Coming Summer 2017.