RESEARCH FOR WRITERS OF HISTORICAL FICTION #10

We’re entering the home stretch of this presentation, and today we’re going to cover an important point:

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The video pictured above provoked one of my worst rabbit hole incidents of all–the Affair of the Sidewalks.

Right before I was supposed to turn in my second novel to my editor, I happened across this video. It’s notable in that it was filmed in 1896–possibly the first Portuguese film ever–and shows women coming out of a factory on St. Catarina Street in Porto after their shift.  It’s only a minute or so long, and has little merit other than it’s ‘first’ status.

However, when I watched it, I saw ONE THING…the women were coming out of the factory onto a SIDEWALK.

I immediately began to wonder how many streets in Porto had sidewalks at the time of my novels…how many of those streets had I mentioned and NOT given them a sidewalk????

I began desperately poring through pictures on the internet and making lists of which ones had sidewalks and which ones didn’t. I did this for a couple of hours before I came to the realization that NO ONE WOULD CARE.

It wasn’t important. It didn’t touch on the plot of my story. I could simply avoid mentioning sidewalks altogether. Because as hard as it was for me to find that information, who else would know?  Seriously? Is there a sidewalk historian who’s going to read my book? That’s about the only person who would even care…

And that illustrates my point. That’s two hours of my life during which I should have been writing, not researching something silly like that.

So…I came up with a rule:

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Yep, if it’s obscure enough that I can’t fine it, then there’s not much chance that any of my readers will know the difference if I get it wrong.  I have to make the call and move on to things that are more important.

It’s harder to do than say. Rabbit Holes abound everywhere, and researching them is, quite honestly, fun. We wouldn’t tackle historical if we didn’t love that.

But we do have to learn to draw the line somewhere. It may not be an hour for you. It might be one day. Or one week. Whatever you’re comfortable with.  But whenever you do find yourself falling down a rabbit hole, try to have a safety line to pull yourself back to reason.  1 hour for me.

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Next Week: What to do When You Make a Mistake

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RRH Confession #11

I ignore the above rule far too often.

 

 

 

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