LIAN TANNER

Research

January 5th, 2020

Writing a story set in a particular historical period is tricky. You have to get the details right, which means a lot of research. And while some writers love research, I find it a chore. That’s one of the reasons I like writing fantasy, where I can make up my own details and no one can tell me I’m wrong.

But right now I’m working on a novella for adults, set in the fifteenth century. This is something completely new for me, because for the past twelve years or so I have only written for children. But this story has been hanging around in the back of my mind for some time, wanting to be written, and I’m having fun with it. (And yes, I’ll be getting back to my next kids’ book very soon!)

The novella is a fantasy, but I still want to get the historical details as accurate as I can. And while some writers spend months or years on research before they even start a story, I like to write the story, then work out what I need to know so that I don’t have to research a whole lot of stuff I’m not going to use.

So now I’m going through the first draft checking details. And what I’m finding is that the fifteenth century lacked an awful lot of things that I had blithely assumed I could include. Like table napkins, wedding dresses and stoves. They had stirrups, so I could leave them in. But table napkins had to be replaced by bits of bread for wiping the mouth, the wedding dress gave way to a new kirtle, and the stove was changed to a fireplace.

I suspect that when I finished I’m going to have to get a historian to check it for me, to make sure I haven’t missed anything. But for now at least, it’s getting a little bit closer to the real fifteenth century.

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