Sunday, April 5, 2015

When to Research and When to Revise Part II

By Kasie Whitener

Once you’ve nailed down the historical details and familiarized yourself with the conventions of the genre and criticism, it’s time to revise.

I’m a pantser which means I write everything “by-the-seat-of-my-pants.” I simply sit down and create. This is as opposed to planners who outline first and then write. Being a pantser is fun because the characters really can take over, hijack scenes, and turn stories into something completely unintended.

During revision, though, I tame the pantser and take a more organized approach. I’ve written about revision before so this blog focuses on revision within the scope of the research I’ve conducted.

Adding Historical Details

Many writers commit the crime of fact dumping, or pouring all of the historical information into a single passage. The location, political climate, costumes, and manners are all thickly embellished and saturate the story. Fact dumping is boring.

Including historical accuracies takes finesse. My approach is to write the passage as if it were happening today and then provide the historical accuracies only when required.

For example, my time-traveling vampires frequently smoke cigarettes. I explain how they light them using taper candles in 1816. I explain costumes when my narrator sees someone for the first time, or when he struggles with the intricacies of 19th century dress.

I used Lord Byron’s club foot to show the advancing trust he had in my narrator, Blue: at first Byron hid his limp, then he pronounced it to gain favor, then he showed the deformity completely, without shame, in an intimate moment.

Including Literary Research

The 1816 vacation at Villa Diodati is usually described as having included a storytelling contest. I included the literary research I’d done by having Byron read from Fantasmagoriana, a French translation of German ghost stories. Blue, the primary storyteller, declined to read the text because he does not speak French.

Byron’s sister translates as her brother reads and the intimacy of her whispered translation in Blue’s ear creates sexual tension between the two. Had I not chosen Fantasmagoriana in its French translation, I would have lost the opportunity to bring my lovers together.

Blue is a story teller. The framework for the novel is his recognition of the five types of stories vampires tell: origin, demise, transformation, redemption, and journey. Reading vampire fiction is what revealed four basic types. Blue is a student of literature and  the novel is his (and my) literary criticism of vampire fiction. The journey story is an original addition to the genre.

Understanding where my fiction fits in the spectrum of existing literature and criticism helped me identify a new position for my work. To have an idea of the landscape, I read deep into the genre and criticism. If I hadn’t, I’d have written just-another-vampire book. Snooze.

Revision is where I add depth and breadth to the story my pantser-self generated. Research helps determine the right details to include and the critical approach to take.

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