Happy Tyr’s Day, writers and friends! Is it Tuesday? I’ve given up keeping track, especially with NaNoWriMo, the election, the holidays… Anyway! The lovely Sarah Noffke has invited me to do a Tuesday Takeover on her awesome blog (thanks, Sarah!) and I’m not sure she knows what she’s gotten herself or her readers into but I have a feeling y’all can handle my hot mess. Thus far in my dabbling with writing and novels, I have started a fantasy novel then done little else with it and I have made love with the plot and ideas for historical fiction – with a paranormal twist! – about Her Royal Majesty, the Most Amazing and Admirable Queen Elizabeth I (I may or may not tend to fangirl just at the thought of her). I have long wanted to give some voice to the emotional shitstorms she went through, especially before her ascension to the throne of England. One of my favorite historians and novelists, Alison Weir, does a great exploration into the more intricate parts of Elizabeth’s character in “The Lady Elizabeth”. I wanted to take it further, though, and really get into her emotional reactions, or seemingly lack thereof, while she endured and persevered as a young woman and royal in 16th century England. So, uh, how the fuck do I do that?
After going through the archives of writing-related searches on Google, I thought about all the advice of visualizing scenes. What is your character wearing? What is she holding in her hands? Who else is with her and wow, I wonder, did Cecil (one of Elizabeth’s most trusted advisers) also visualized slapping the shit out of Robert Dudley? The thing with these exercises is they aren’t really time well spent for historical fiction. I mean, they aren’t a waste, it’s good to get your brain going but there are tons of paintings and I have been studying Elizabethan England since I was 9. I already know what she wore and where she was at most times.
What my novel needs is the essence of Elizabeth’s character. One can only imagine what it was like losing your mother because your father was an impressionable douche canoe and couldn’t stop obsessing over trying to father a male heir so he beheads her to try with another woman. How I wish I could go back in time and tell him it’s the father’s chromosome that has to break to produce a male but whatever, beside the point. Then there’s the years of being suspected of treason and fearing execution. Add to that the prospect of being forced to marry… It’s kind of overwhelming just to think about. I want readers to, on some level, feel and understand what that was truly like. Because our pain has the potential to become our strength and Elizabeth was a magnificent example of this. I want to know how she coped with being imprisoned by her own sister and being interrogated by men who switched faces and turned coat more often than middle school girls. She is the type of woman we base our heroines off of.
Then it dawned on me – I’ve had a past life regression. I won’t get into details but in it I was in 1560s France and when I wrote it in my journal I was able to give some pretty exquisite details. My task, I realized, is similar to recreating that; however, in this meditation I observe Elizabeth. I have found many blog posts and articles about using meditation to open creativity and invite the muses into your writing life. I’ll link to those at the end, if you’re interested. These are valuable techniques but, again, not what I need. In my meditation, after grounding and centering myself, I pick a scene in my plot/Elizabeth’s life. I then start with the room, walls and tapestries, tables and hearths, wardrobes and writing desks. But! This is a step that you can easily get carried away with. If you do try this, which I think it’s definitely helpful even for non-hist fic writers, remember that the exact color of the furniture likely isn’t going to affect anyone other than a poor high school literature class whose teacher insists there is a reason the curtains are blue. No, unless your character did something with those curtains, they’re just goddamn curtains. Anyway…try not to get too caught up in this unless you really want to and have time. My focus is on Elizabeth, her interactions with others, and the outcomes of those interactions. After creating the setting in my head, I throw in some dialogue relevant to the scene I’m wanting to write. In my novel this is usually going to be said between the men who were put in charge of keeping her under house arrest, her sister, and some noble ladies. My main observations are centered around Elizabeth’s facial expressions in each scene and, after the other characters have left her presence, what her next actions are. I usually am more or less done with the exercise after this because I can take this and pants the bajeezebuses out of a few scenes based on the ideas it has given. It’s particularly helpful for scenes that I’m struggling to transition into/away from and ones where the dialogue is feeling mechanical.
If you have questions or would like some more info on anything I’ve mentioned here, let me know in the comments or email me, the address is in my bio here! 🙂 I’m off to spend time in my head. If you don’t see anything from me by January, I might have gotten stuck in the year 1585. Feel free to visit!
Links to meditations for writers/creatives: http://shawnradcliffe.com/mindfulness-writing-creative-thinking-meditation/ http://www.copyblogger.com/writing-meditation/ http://www.copyblogger.com/writing-meditation/
Bio: Rae (otherwise known as “Empy” by friends and foe alike) is a weird hybrid of writer, editor, coach, and social media manager. She is working on her first novel, a slightly paranormal historical fiction about her longtime idol, Queen Elizabeth I. She’s also creating an online business offering editing and content management with sides of SEO and marketing. Outside of the web, she has a 5 year old spawn, fiance, 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, snakes, and a small army. You can visit her new e-home once it is built enough to be habitable at TheCommaSutra.net or you can email her at EmpRKomlo@gmail.com