Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reading and writing and blogging . . . challenges

Victorian Era Women

Last night, I started reading Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and was transfixed by her evocative writing that spelled out character and setting so perfectly. As I fell into her story and admired how beautifully she captures external and internal realities, I thought of a writing prompt:

We all have rich inner lives, informed by our experiences. Memories speak to us when we least expect it. So, what is dearest to each character in your current work in progress? Consider the senses, memory tied to particular time, person or place; life cycle events, childhood, adolescence, an embarrassing moment, a joyful time, music, dance. What would your character miss most of home? What memory most repels them? Freewrite for 15 minutes about one of your characters. Let the words flow -- scenes, dialogue, descriptions. Above all, consider memory. 

The reason for this prompt is that one of my female characters is very passive. She's always fainting. I think it means I don't understand Victorian era middle class women. I'm ok with blue collar and lower class women. Their dialogue sings to me. And I've worked with upper class folks who can sneer with a lifted eyebrow. Another book on my to-read-list is Jane Robinson's Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. If you have any suggestions about research that would help me understand Victorian women, please send it to me!

One sad part of being a writer that reads is that I cannot pick up a book without thinking about what strategies this writer used and what I might learn from this writer. Some books I start and cannot finish because of clumsy writing. Some potboilers I'm hooked from the very first page and cannot put the story down. So, here are my writing-related challenges for 2013. 

READING CHALLENGE.  I have enjoyed being a part of GoodReads this last year. Not only because I now have a 'hit list' of 'to reads' that matches my interests, but there's a whole online community over there with other writers/readers who talk about the books they love and review. My first challenge is to read 50 books in 2013 through GOODREADS Challenge 2013.

WRITING CHALLENGE.  ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days) starts up again on January 7. I'm ready with tighter goals and more accountability. Sometimes this is a little scary, but the daily, weekly goals help me keep focused, especially as new projects beckon and I don't know where to fit them in! 

My main focus right now is reading (and taking notes on) Years of Stone with an eye to catch plot holes and minor editing along the way. But Deidre's character now grates. Does she have to simper, sigh, and faint? And drink tea? I know she is grittier, but it just doesn't come through. Aargh! I will complete the above exercise for Deidre.

This 1845 portrait of Angelina Grimké, a US abolitionist and activist for women's rights, who moved from the South to Philadelphia, shows so much character (source Harvard University Open Collections).

ULTIMATE BLOG CHALLENGE. This is something new -- do you like these kinds of challenges that motivate you with daily prompts? The A-Z Blogging Challenge last year was fun and useful. So I signed up for this one too. The Ultimate Blog Challenge runs just for the month of January -- and it got me to write today's entry!

The image of Victorian Era Women came from Victorian Era Women.