Realism and Urban Fantasy

Last night I wrapped up the second book of my trilogy and began on book three. While book two definitely posed some challenges and obstacles (hell, I stopped in the middle and wrote book one when I realized the story didn’t really start there), this last one is going to be the most involved in some ways.

For starters, my primary POV protagonist (though it will switch between Sarah and Anna as well) is a 400-year-old vampire. Her back story is fascinating to me as well as being integral to the progression of the series, so last night I wrote upwards of 3,000 words of historical fiction.

I already know some stuff about 17th century Poland — or more correctly, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that existed at the time. I know in 1655 the Swedes invaded (that’s when her home was burned to the ground and she ended up becoming a vampire), but other things I had to look up, like this dude:

Fabulous hat, sir.

Regardless of the fashion of the times, I want to create little forays into the past that pluck the reader out of the 21st century and punt them backwards, so they feel the grit, the reality of a life back then.

For my dear little Ewunia, she has a rough go of things. So there are a good number of things I need to look up and figure out. For instance:

What would have been the role of a widowed merchant’s only daughter? Would she have been educated at all? What sort of practical skills might she have, if any?

How exactly were women of the day treated? Would she have been on the cusp of being married to someone twice her age? Probably.

What would an invading army do with stray women? (I think I already know the answer to that — it hasn’t changed in five thousand years  since the dawn of time.)

Muskets or arrows or bolts?

What would Ewunia have worn given her sex and social class? What did 17th century Poles eat?

In spite of the relatively short amount of time my book will spend in the 17th century, I need to go back there to hunt myself. I need to learn more about this world Ewunia is at the mercy of once her father is dead and her home burned to the ground. Because ultimately, I want readers to understand why she makes the choices she does, and her background will determine a lot of that. Not to mention the vampire who makes her one — he is very important to the story, and his development gives me some chills to think about. He’s a little bit like Anakin Skywalker, but with fangs and an old Swedish name instead.

Speaking of him, his name is the one I had to change, as was Ewunia’s, to protect the validity of their characters. They’re supposed to be centuries old, so his name wouldn’t be Damon. Plus, Ewunia begins to go by Elaine later, and I realized the Polish version of that is Elena (and not common)…Elena and Damon? Dammit, Vampire Diaries.

So yeah, they’re now Ewunia and Einarr, circa 1655. I like “Einarr.” It means one warrior, which suits him. And his chosen replacement name later will be nice and ironic.

I’ll probably have a wee bit more to say on this as I continue to write, gentle viewers. Until then, love your characters, love your story, and be true to it however you know best.





About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on November 11, 2011, in book three, research, the silver thorn chronicles, writing process and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Huzzah! Exciting! Congratulations on finishing book two!

    I have been doing a hefty amount of research for my steampunk novel because even though I know that steampunk is usually categorized as AU and therefore I don’t need to get everything totally right, I want it to FEEL historically accurate. I don’t want my readers to say, “Oh, I guess this book is supposed to be in Victorian London, but it’s pretty, y’know, modern feeling, isn’t it?” I want people to go, “Wow, this totally feels like Victorian London, and ooh look, nifty gadgets and magics!” So I definitely agree that a level of historical accuracy is key to maintaining a sense of realism, even if just for yourself. Your reader may not know or care what 17th century Polish women ate for breakfast, but your authority on the subject will allow your reader to feel comfortable with what you’re telling them.

  2. That dude was certainly worth the look-up. Just behold that snazzy style! Now that’s how one rides to war.

    Seriously though, it’s always nice to see someone put so much time and research into their writing. It helps, as the tiniest nuances always help pull the reader just a touch deeper into the writing, and it always shows through in the quality and tone of the work that comes of it.

    P.S. Good choice on evading Elena and Damon…

  3. Ooh, Emmie, great way to tease me. Now I must buy your book. Sounds very interesting! I love vampires, and I love historical fiction. Since you seem to be a very good writer, based on what I have read thus far (from your posted snippets and from your blog posts and comments), it will be a treat, I am sure.

    I am a historical fiction writer, but it’s magical realism, sort of like Isabel Allende (you’ve read her stuff, right? If not, please do, she’s wonderful. Luckily I can read her work in the original Spanish, but the English translations are great, too). I am a history fanatic, and getting the details just right is imperative to me. Every time I read something that is supposedly set in the 1700s and people are using “ok” and wearing inappropriate clothing or eating inappropriate foods, it sets my teeth on edge and jerks me out of the story immediately. Poor research is just not acceptable, or at least it shouldn’t be, in my opinion. If you want to write period fiction, then please, get the period right. Thank you for wanting to be correct! You seem like the kind of person who is dedicated to her work, and I am sure it comes through in the quality of your writing. The facts are the skeleton the story hangs on, and we clothe it with flesh with our details and dialogue, and make it dance with the plotline. I’m sure your story’s body will be as beautiful as its author, and the dance will be lyrical. 😉

    Now, enough pretentious commenting…must work!!!

  4. Emmie, this is what I love most about writers – putting in that 110%.

    You could easily just gloss over the details because, hey you’re the author and you have that power! But instead, you go ahead and throw yourself into a time machine to research the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century…ok not literally but you are taking the extra step to get down the lifestyle details of your characters and make them truly believable.

    It’s funny, earlier today I was reading a blog post about Mary Sue characters who have attitudes and traits that just don’t make sense in the time period they are born and raised in. Then I come and read this post. Coincidence?

    Now I wonder…what if writers did have access to time machines? Hmm…

  5. Now I understand why Book 2 struck me as so much stronger on first read than Book 1. I can’t wait to read number 3. I adore your use of Polish language and the time flips. They make the book so rich, and deepen the mood, as do your settings, esp’ly in Scotland and other European countries. Knowing you as I do, and your history, I find it fascinating how you have woven your life experiences into your fiction and how well it works, especially in the context of urban fiction. Hats off.

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