Wednesday, March 19, 2014


"“You have heard that it was said to them of old, don’t sin, and don’t sard another man’s wife.”"

If I had a publishing house and connections to universities, I'd start up a research project.  There are so many independent authors out there writing stories set in various time periods and they all need good hard information about those time periods.
So a series of books focusing on what writers need to know about various epochs and locations would be extremely helpful.  For example, a book on early 1980s west coast America, or Victorian England (early and late), WW2 Europe, Medieval Spain after El Cid, and so on.
These books would need to give slang, idioms, speech patterns, clothing, hair styles, and such among the different social strata.  They'd need to describe transportation, worldviews of the general public, cultural icons, entertainment, housing, food types, common jobs, sanitation, ceremonies and holidays, religious customs and controversies, political events, and more.
You'd have to show maps, illustrations, and samples from that time period, so people could get a feel for what it looked like and how it was laid out.  Yes, Paris was big, but it looked like this then.  No, people didn't wear armor all the time, here's how they dressed casually.
These books could also note things that might commonly be believed for that time period, such as terms, clothing, behavior, and such.  Things to avoid because they aren't proper yet (no, they didn't have that gun or that armor yet, no, they didn't use that term, no there were no cell phones at that time, etc).
Each volume could cover a lot of ground, set up like a travel guide, so that someone writing a book on the topic could just pick up the volume they need, pore through it for the specific information, and as a result have more accurate writing.
This stuff is all available out there on the internet, eventually, scattered all about, but its tough to find and having it all in one convenient location would be extremely welcome.  The e-book version could even have things like snippets of music and links to useful sites.
You'd have to start with the most popular time periods (steampunk England, for example), and spread out from there.  Some areas wouldn't need as much granular breakdown, as they are pretty constant for long periods of time.  Others change so much and so rapidly they would require many volumes.  You can't really do an "80s America" book because the first part and end were so different, and what was popular in California wasn't necessarily in New York.
But a series of books like this would be incredibly useful for the writer and it could go a long ways toward preventing some of the more woeful, unfortunate anachronisms and cultural flaws in many books out there.  Yeah, the film A Knight's Tale made money but it was a hideous rape of history and culture.
The main problem with this project would be preventing people from injecting their political hopes or ideas into the historical data (always a danger with history, especially these days), and related would be the concern over certain controversial topics, such as the inquisition or the holocaust.  Breaking things down to the most clearly known, absolute basic facts and leaving out analysis would be ideal.
This is just one of those brainstorms that I'd try to fund if I had, say, Bill Gates level cash.  But then, Bill Gates didn't get as rich as he is by funding all sorts of crackpot ideas, either.
*Commenter Tina points out that a series of books something like this does exist, in the "Writer's Guide To Everyday Life" series. They aren't as closely focused as I had in mind (for example the 1800s book covers an entire century for the entire planet) but its pretty close.

1 comment:

Tina said...

How funny. I just bought one of these, otherwise I would think they didn't exist either. There is a whole series of them, called "Writers Guides to Everyday Life" - do a search on Amazon and a whole bunch come up!

The reason I bought one is a sudden interest in mid-19th century reenacting: Republic of Texas, Civil War, Wild West, etc.