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View Full Version : English-language books? How many books should be used to get a sense of background/feel for setting?



Morwen Edhelwen
01-20-2012, 08:28 AM
about the United Fruit Company in Honduras? I found Reinterpreting the Banana Republic , Banana wars: power, production and history in the Americas and Race, nation and West Indian immigration to Honduras 1890-1940 and Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped The World.

And also I found a book called Culture and Customs of Honduras. How many books should a person read to get a feel for their setting? Would five books be enough for getting some background?

L.C. Blackwell
01-20-2012, 10:18 AM
An unanswerable question--and no, I'm not being snarky. I will, however, be direct, and say that (speaking as a hist-fic writer with some academic background in the subject) you can't possibly judge the value of sources through a set number.

Get the right source, and one book may be enough. Blunder your way through the incomplete, obscure or totally useless, and a dozen won't be enough.

You need to compare and contrast. Balance each book against the others. Ask questions as you read, and look for the answers. Keep going until you feel you have a fairly complete picture. It helps when books disagree with each other, as the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of disputed territory.

Not to get personal or critical here, but I'm a little puzzled/concerned by the fact that you seem to pick incredibly obscure settings that require intensive research skills--ones your questions indicate you don't possess. Either some skill-building is in order, or you might find it simpler to stick to settings where a wide variety of information is readily available. Otherwise you're likely to go on frustrating yourself by asking more questions that don't have easy answers--or sometimes, any answer at all.

Best of luck--

Morwen Edhelwen
01-20-2012, 10:32 AM
An unanswerable question--and no, I'm not being snarky. I will, however, be direct, and say that (speaking as a hist-fic writer with some academic background in the subject) you can't possibly judge the value of sources through a set number.

Get the right source, and one book may be enough. Blunder your way through the incomplete, obscure or totally useless, and a dozen won't be enough.

You need to compare and contrast. Balance each book against the others. Ask questions as you read, and look for the answers. Keep going until you feel you have a fairly complete picture. It helps when books disagree with each other, as the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of disputed territory.

Not to get personal or critical here, but I'm a little puzzled/concerned by the fact that you seem to pick incredibly obscure settings that require intensive research skills--ones your questions indicate you don't possess. Either some skill-building is in order, or you might find it simpler to stick to settings where a wide variety of information is readily available. Otherwise you're likely to go on frustrating yourself by asking more questions that don't have easy answers--or sometimes, any answer at all.

Best of luck--

Well, those settings are interesting- that's why I pick them. And I can easily find a lot of stuff on the internet (and in books) about this. (Not to sound defensive but this is going to be the last question on this subject for awhile.) And those tips- thanks.

Debbie V
01-23-2012, 10:44 PM
Another possible resource is to look for Universities in your area with courses on the region. Track down the professors and see if you can't arrange an interview. They will be experts on the topic, or know some and may have lived there themselves. Nothing beats first hand experience. Ask them if they'd mind fact checking your final draft too.

Organizations in the region related to your topic may provide the same kind of help, but you may have a language barrier with them.

Good luck.

Carmy
01-24-2012, 07:06 AM
I wonder if there are videos around that could offer you a "feel" for the place and allow you to hear the sounds of folks in a public place like a market.

I hope your main character doesn't originate from there, because it would make it far more difficult to sound authentic.

Good luck with the project. I admire your courage.

Morwen Edhelwen
02-07-2012, 02:58 AM
This piece is loosely inspired by Evita. Everyone in the story's from there, and it's not exactly set in the present day. Or I could just ask someone I know who spent time there.

Snick
02-07-2012, 04:09 AM
In a similaar vein, I'm surprised that no one has done a goodly novel based on William Walker. He was elected President next doo in Nicaragua. then the U.s. by command of vanderbilt threw him out. The bare facts are fascinating, and I am sure that there is more to be known.

Theo81
02-08-2012, 12:12 AM
I seem to recall in one of Sarah Waters (literary historical romance) books she included a bibliography - it ran to about 30 books, possibly more.

Look for books about social history, try and find diaries or personal accounts. The books you've listed will tell you the politics, but they won't tell you much about day to day life. It's the simple things which scupper historical fiction - food, drink, clothing, social norms.


Some time ago I read a book which was a sort of fantasy novel loosely based on the early life of Chairman Mao (the MC was a girl whom he abandoned to go and be Chairman Mao) - I wish I knew what it was called; you'd probably find it interesting to read because it's taking a similar approach to yours. Because it was set in "fantasy china", it had the feel of being Chinese without bogging itself down in detail. Now, this is either a cop out or a genius idea, depending on your POV, but...it worked.
Do research, but be realistic about your ability to write something historically accurate as far as setting goes. As I said in your other thread, you aren't trying to write something realistic, so, maybe you can set your novel in Hondur-exico-tina and it's about Fruits United company.

If you write your own world, you can write your own plot. If you have the freedom of that you can move further away from Evita and more towards your own original work. Don't take this the wrong way - every time you talk of this novel, it sounds like an Evita fanfic - Che in Evita is not Che Guevara (the sheet music has him listed as "Che"), he's just modelled on him in some productions - it's a costume, not a character.
I'm trying to encourage you to write your *own* novel. By all means, begin with Evita, but make it your own. Stop thinking about it as "I'm writing a novel based on the characters in Evita" and start thinking about it as "I'm writing a novel set in Honduras about a woman called Eva, she meets a revolutionary called Che and then..."

Good luck.

Morwen Edhelwen
02-08-2012, 04:01 AM
Well, I want to be accurate as far as Garifuna culture and other aspects go. And yes, I've started to think about this in the way you've described already. What about this answer to your "and then"? "Since he's grown up in her house and is her servant, he passes messages for her to a number of prominent military officers who're close to her husband and his family, and eventually she gets back in touch with her movie contacts in Mexico, including a talent scout and a bandleader, who influence things so that she can go to America and get a singing career (and hopefully get support for the possible new regime) Is that too much like the play?

ETA: I've seen several play reviews of Evita productions which describe the Che character as Guevara. Do you think you can remember the title of that book? Because I'd like to read it.

Theo81
02-08-2012, 01:39 PM
Well, I want to be accurate as far as Garifuna culture and other aspects go. And yes, I've started to think about this in the way you've described already. What about this answer to your "and then"? "Since he's grown up in her house and is her servant, he passes messages for her to a number of prominent military officers who're close to her husband and his family, and eventually she gets back in touch with her movie contacts in Mexico, including a talent scout and a bandleader, who influence things so that she can go to America and get a singing career (and hopefully get support for the possible new regime) Is that too much like the play?

It's your book so you can do what you want with it, but it sounds like a classic case of your Potato Protagonist Syndrome. The way you describe it there, Eva is passive (stuff happens TO her).

Also, it isn't anything like the musical. In that, Eva wants power - she's driven by a desire for revenge over the old ruling class - the glamour is another weapon in her arsenal and (with tragic irony) it enslaves her forever - and she aligns herself with whoever will help her to get that from the very first "whoever", to Peron (theirs is a business arrangement, not a marriage), to the Argentine people. She's interesting because she is so selfish and driven and she even manages to convince herself she's right and doing it for the right reasons, but she has also become her own pawn - Tim Rice is a brilliant lyricist.

Think about what your protagonist WANTS. What is her problem? How is she going to solve it?

ETA: I've seen several play reviews of Evita productions which describe the Che character as Guevara. Do you think you can remember the title of that book? Because I'd like to read it.

I'm not talking about a book, I'm talking about the score in which the character was listed simply as Che. According to that bastion of accuracy, Wikipedia:


Rice suggested that they create a character known as Che to serve as a narrator and Greek chorus. It was not his intention to base him on Che Guevara, but when Harold Prince later became involved with the project, he insisted that the actors portraying Che use Guevara as a role model.[4] In the 1996 film adaptation, the character returned to his more anonymous roots. This was also the case for the 2006 London revival.[5]

So, Che was created as Che Guevara for the stage which the musical pre-dates by a couple of years.




Spend some time in QLH reading the queries and hopefully you'll get what I mean about having a passive protagonist. Your Eva needs to DO something.

Morwen Edhelwen
02-08-2012, 01:47 PM
Spend some time in QLH reading the queries and hopefully you'll get what I mean about having a passive protagonist. Your Eva needs to DO something.

I meant the book about Chairman Mao. ETA: Protagonist's actually Che.