Research opportunities are everywhere. I find when I am writing about a particular subject or era references to it flood into my life. This is what I call “red car theory” (I’ll write that book one day!). In other words, if you buy a red car you will see many like it on the road even if you thought it was a rare model.
I am currently writing a historical romance set at the time of the Norman Conquest and all of a sudden, there have been a plethora of programmes about it from all sorts of angles. I have been able to set my SKYbox and record lots of research. One programme even had instructions for my hero about how to hold his shield and lance in battle!
It is worth watching out for themed events too. The Severn Valley Railway near to my home regularly runs 1940’s events. The Bewdley Museum has its own air raid shelter complete with suitably aged volunteers (including my stepfather) to explain everything. English Heritage has a whole programme of re-enactments throughout the year. I have been to Roman ones at Wroxeter, medieval ones at Kenilworth and Goodrich, civil war ones at Boscobel and Ashby. National Trust properties also give insights into different periods and often have guides dressed in period garments. Museums such as Beamish in county Durham, Blists Hill in Shropshire and the Black Country Museum also help you to get into period. Following these methods of research also allow you to include the whole family, often without them knowing you are working.
Whilst studying my current course of biography and memoir writing I have come across some wonderful real life accounts of various periods of history.
I once spent a summer on an archaeological dig at Dudley Castle – ok I ended up mainly washing bones found in the midden heap – but even that gave me an insight into the medieval diet.
My own family history is providing a rich source of potential stories and allows me to indulge my love of history and maps. You can’t beat a morning of graveyard hunting for research into potential stories!
Any more ideas?
I have Virgin TV and they have recently put a 'Military History'channel on their 'On demand' service – I found the Roman invasion of Britain, 3 parts, two of which gave me a valuable insight into the lives/motivation of the Silure tribe (my writing era!). You can also go onto the website of the History channel, and get text alerts of progs that are relevant to you. (Im getting so geeky!)
I love the research part of writing a historical. Jessica T and I were discussing this last night, and although we conceded you could probably get the writing done quicker without it, it's a part of it I really love. Re-enactment groups are great, as they are usually soo knowledgeable about authentic costume of the period including what materials they're made from.
More ideas? For me, living in York helps. Ideas are everywhere, from medieval buildings to Viking re-enactors walking down the street. My story inspiration usually comes from place.
Hi Christine and Sophia,
I shall investigate the History Channel text alert!
We visited York in the summer and I was fascinated with the little streets and unique shops. I agree about the places inspiring stories. Trouble is my stockpile of ideas is now frustrating me. I think I probably have more than i could write in my lifetime.
Strange I didn't choose to enter a historical in the New Voices competition.
Happy researching. Mx
I don't know if you've ever been round the 'back to back houses' in Birmingham. They are run by the National Trust, you have to book to go on a tour as space is limited. I found it a fascinating insight into how the poorer people of the city used to live, and the guide was so informative. Do go if you get chance. It's well worth it.
I've been meaning to go for ages. It's not far from me either. Maybe half term! Mx