I Know What I Know

As an author of historical romance with paranormal and fantasy elements, I have to stop and think on exactly what the people I’m writing about didn’t know.

I know that comets return in a predictable number of years. I know about our solar system. I’m aware that the aurora borealis  is caused by solar flare activity from the Sun.

I know that our weather is due to many factors; sun activity, wind and oceans flow patterns, volcanic eruptions. When it veers out of the ordinary, I can watch the news, weather channel or Google to find out why.

If I look at my calendar, I can see where we are in the year, when to expect the next season change, whose birthday is getting close. I know what year it is and how old I am. No guessing about that.

Glaciers come and go, grow a bit and retreat. I know it has nothing to do with our actions, good or bad. Volcanoes erupt, earthquakes strike. We can’t predict them, but our understanding of them increases all the time.

I believe we are as intelligent as the people who came before us. Not any better, morally speaking, or any worse. The same. But we are fortunate to live in this era and have the opportunity to educate ourselves to learn just about anything we want to know. The internet is just wonderful in that regard.

So, I know what I know. But my characters don’t know what I know.

I get to have fun with that.  Especially in my time travels. But I also have to do a lot of research to keep the time in which I’m writing about be as accurate as possible. Which leads to many hours of learning about things I’ll probably never use, but is interesting to me.

I need to know what was considered proper. In a short story of mine, SWEET SAUERKRAUT, which takes place in the Regency era, my heroine loves to bake and cook. Except, she is of the gentry, and granddaughter to an earl. It wasn’t done! I made it work and had fun with it.

My writing and editing continue, and as always I try to keep in mind what my characters don’t know that I know. And have fun with it.

Any comments?

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6 Responses to I Know What I Know

  1. I am reading the Outlander Series right now. And at times I hear a character from another era use a turn of phrase that would not be common at that time. The 20th century characters in the same story might use that turn of phrase – so maybe the other characters might have picked that up – but since it was not established previously, in my mind it seems out of place just a bit. Or maybe the author feels it is necessary to the humor of the situation she is trying to build and she feels that the reader wouldn’t be jarred by hearing that turn of phrase … and yet I was.

    It doesn’t happen often.

    Sort of the same thing as you are describing …

  2. Gerri Bowen says:

    You’re right Elaine, it is jarring. Many discussions on the different groups I belong to about when a particular word is first used. OED is the reference, and we assume that the word has been used for some years before it is officially recorded. So then many discussions ensue about what other word might be used instead. We can be a chatty group of people.

    But jarring the reader out of the story is what we strive not to do. Not just with words, but the use of weapons. battle dates, types of clothing and food, etc. Readers are smart, and they let us know when we’re wrong!

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Elaine.

  3. Vladimir says:

    Imagine that you have to guess the slang from the distant future?
    Trying to keep in mind what your characters know that you don’t know. :))

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      That could lead to some humorous situations! In a time-travel I have under consideration, a character from our time uses slang words and phrases that make no sense to people living in the eleventh century. Some humorous moments there. 🙂
      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Vladimir!

  4. Stormie Kent says:

    Hi Gerri, my romance is futuristic sci-fi. When my female lead is off world and using idiomatic speech, noone understands what she is talking about despite having a mechanical language interpreter. I use to show world and cultural differences.

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