Do you write Historical Fiction? Writing historically accurate fiction starts with RESEARCH.
Well, duh! I know that.
Most writers will take for granted a great many aspects that can lend more credence to their works, as well as a better experience of the story they want to put forward to readers. Additionally, if you want to be considered historically accurate, you must behave as a historian–do your due diligence. Can it always be done? Some things might slip past you. No human is perfect. Try your best. This series is going to help by presenting articles of interest from around the internet and get you started on the research necessary to complete an amazing manuscript.
East German Fashions of the Cold War
I don’t think there is a more popular topic, at least in the United States, for historical writing than the Cold War. There are extensive reams of text written about the great clash between communism and capitalism post World War II. The break up of Germany, we of course know, occurred as retribution for the war. Communist Russia claimed their half and the other Allies claimed theirs. Those details are not in dispute. The finer details are the ones that cross into gray areas and are still being debated over by staunch capitalists and their perceived enemies.
Not long ago, I was studying my German lessons and picking up some culture through an article about German politics. Did you know that the Socialist party is looked down upon? Yet, much of German policy is socialist in nature. It’s an odd mix of contradiction which I struggle to piece together as part of learning their language. It makes perfect sense that anything socialist would be looked upon with mistrust considering the history of World War II. They are attempting to never have history repeat, and rightly so. They’ve outlawed a number of icons and raised monuments to mourn their dead. They’re facing the actions with bravery, always with an eye on that element which still exists inside their borders, just waiting for the day to rekindle old flames–not at all unlike the supporters of Confederate nostalgia in the United States.
If a writer is to delve into this tricky period, there is plenty to back them up in the process. However, has any writer given thought to the description of the German agent’s clothing? How would they blend in? What makes them uniquely Eastern German? Cue this little gem of an article from Dangerous Minds.
A lot of the information I will be sharing in this series about researching for historical fiction is going to be the tidbits that make a work stand out. The writer looking to serve up the next great historical fiction shouldn’t shy away from having to do extensive research for something that feels so small in scope as far as their book is concerned. When you take the time to read articles and other documents on such topics, you start to absorb the culture of the time. That is valuable beyond measure. So don’t think: No way am I reading all this material just to describe an overcoat for my agent. Because it is so much more than that. The related information you garner from such sojourns will feed numerous aspects of the narrative.
The multi-layered aspect of research is the purpose of a liberal education. It teaches you to view material and its value from multiple perspectives. the layering is what makes the book pop off the page for readers (more importantly, for editors and publishers you are courting). My Master of Arts in Liberal Studies taught me how not only gender and racial perspectives can change the tone of a work, but the intersections of culture (books, movies, fashion, food, etc) create a semiotic text.
So, delve deep. Your readers will thank you.
TopSecret: The goofy retro ‘undercover’ fashion guide for East German secret police spies | Dangerous Minds
Have a topic you’d like discussed on writing historical fiction? Leave me a message and I will do my best to get to it