Old West Research

So, one reason I haven’t posted in a while – I’ve been busy. Top of my to-do list is revising some historical fiction that, even at this stage, requires a lot of last-minute research. For example, despite growing up in farm-and-cattle country, I actually didn’t know the exact definition of “oxen.” I mean, sure, I’ve seen an ox. But the textbook definition? I had to look it up. Sadly, once armed with this precise knowledge, I realized I needed something else for my story.

On to my next question. How many ordinary horses would it take to pull a wagon? And what sort of process and jargon goes into a scene where a character hitches a horse to a wagon? It took a lot longer than I thought to pick up two turns of phrase (but I have them now!). Then there’s mundane matters, like women’s hairstyles and fashion. You can’t have characters in historical settings blithely sticking their hair full of bobby pins before they were available. So, you (and by extension, the characters) resort to spiral hairpins. What about indoor plumbing? But what was true for major cities wasn’t the case in the American West, as a phone call to a relative proved. (No, in fact, my great-grandparents did not have indoor toilets.)

The biggest problem, though, is not getting sidetracked. Try looking up something as simple as passenger train travel in the early 1900s and not stop to read about the Stevens Pass avalanche. Even if your story has not one thing to do with northern Washington, it’s hard not to take a moment and read the account. (Hey, nothing wrong with being informed about the events of the day.) Hopefully, I’ll have the last of the research wrapped up before much longer. But first…join me in marveling at the states who were ahead of their time when it came to women’s suffrage

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1 Comment

Filed under Writing, Writing Process

One response to “Old West Research

  1. Gaaah. Research. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love doing it, but I hate it when I get totally side-tracked. It’s going to be a totally awesome novel, though, Kelly! What a great way to combine your grad degree training with writing.

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