Describing a Historical Setting

Well I’m up late Friday night, literally working on one of the very last scenes of Reaping the Whirlwind, and trying to get the juices flowing. Since its a scene that takes place in New York City circa 1895 I thought I’d write a post about how I “get a vision” for a place I’ve never been before, and that most modern New Yorkers wouldn’t even recognize. All I can say is that the internet is a wonderful thing. I simply typed in New York City Parades 1895 (the scene is a parade) and it brought up these wonderful pictures of a Parade in New York in the year of my story.



Afterwards I typed in New York City 1895 and found a wealth of other pictures. Now I’ll let those interested in writing alternate history or historical fiction in on a little secret. In my very humble opinion the key to getting the setting right is an art of illusion. You describe enough to make it seem as though you’ve been there and you know what you’re talking about but in reality you are simply building a small framework of good historically accurate description while letting the reader’s imagination fill in the rest. But old photo’s like these are a treasure. Another things that I’ve made extensive use of in my work is Google Maps. One day I’ll do a whole post on that, but suffice it to say it makes it easier to describe battles in places I’ve never been when I can literally get on Google Maps and pull up satellite imagery of the terrain in question. This helped enormously in my description of the Confederate attack on Havana in Rebel Empire and also came in handy in several places in Reaping the Whirlwind. Anyhow, the juices are flowing and I’m getting back to it. I can literally sense the approach of those two magic words, “the end.” Unless you’ve ever written a novel from start to finish you have no idea how satisfying that moment is.


One thought on “Describing a Historical Setting

  1. Jeff Cherrie says:

    Looking forward to it. Keep up the good work. Regards Jeff

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