When it comes to fiction, I make mine historical. Maybe I’ll try other genres someday, but for now, I enjoy the experience of stepping back in time to create characters and tell their stories.
But I’ll admit it can be hard to step out of 2015 and firmly plant my feet in the soil of 1855. I’ve often wished for a time machine that would allow me to visit my setting as it was in that day.
Here are a few tricks I use to get myself into the mindset of my historical era:
1) Mood music
As I worked on my 1855 novels, I listened to music of the era. My good friends at Lone Chimney Films hooked me up with a CD of music by the Freestaters that is from the era of my story. The music helps me focus on the era and how my characters might feel.
2) Feet on the ground, imagination in the past
When I can, I like to visit the physical location of the story. I walk around, looking for things that were present at that time: buildings, historical markers, landmarks.
Here are a few from Lawrence, Kansas:
This is the Eldridge Hotel. In 1855 it was called the Freestate Hotel.
The cornerstone tells a little about the history of this important building. It was built in 1855 and then destroyed in 1956. The destruction of the hotel is an important part of my story.
3) Live it like it was
I love to visit museums that hold household items from the era. The kinds of things my characters would use in their homes, wear on their backs, do their work with.
The main character of my novel was the blacksmith’s apprentice. To find out what that would really be like, I visited Missouri Town 1855 and worked in the blacksmith shop with a re-enactor. I not only learned the tools and processes of blacksmithing, but I pounded hot metal and learned what muscles get sore from pumping the bellows.
This is a photo of the forge at MO Town 1855.
I also used a house at that site that became my vision of the house where my main character lived.
I used this house as my model for the house that Sam and Pritchard lived in.
I don’t know what process other writers use, but these are techniques that help transport me to the world of my novels-in-progress. It’s a fun experience!