Building a New World

I finished my proofreading! In the future, I really need to avoid doing two books back-to-back like that. I need to do other kind of work in between, not just for my brain but for my voice. I proofread by reading out loud — the best way to make sure you’re reading what’s there rather than what you think should be there, as well as a great way to spot awkward phrasing, repeated words, etc. Reading entire novels out loud for weeks at a stretch when I’m used to not talking much on a normal day really seems to have strained me because my throat’s a bit sore (though some of that may be due to high mountain cedar levels). I may have to give myself vocal rest this weekend (and remember not to talk to myself out loud).

I let myself sleep late and have a lazy morning today because wrapping up a book should be celebrated, and then this afternoon I have to dive into planning my next projects.

One thing I have to figure out is what my heroine wants. That’s such a basic part of fiction, but I realized once I got started thinking about it that although I have what felt like a fleshed-out character, I have no idea what she might want, aside from the story goal (which I’m also not entirely clear on). The one thing I can think of feels like it’s overused and a bit of a cliche, but being different and doing the opposite thing means the story has no drive. People wanting something bigger or more than where they are is such a standard thing (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) but content people make terrible protagonists, unless something absolutely forces them out of their contentment. I don’t want to blow up her world, and I don’t want to make her hate having to do the thing she has to do, which means I have to make her something less than content. This is going to take some thought.

Meanwhile this is a “secondary world” story, so it’s not based in our world, and that’s rather liberating. I’m somewhat basing it on a particular period of our history (clothing, technology level, society), but I can change things I don’t like. For instance, I can have lovely late 18th century-inspired dresses but skip the powdered wigs on men and women. In my world, they don’t do wigs. I can also have less sexism, so girls can do things they wouldn’t have been allowed to do in our world’s history. I just have to decide how much their world follows ours — we moved into the Directoire style that morphed into Empire, with the kinds of dresses you see in Jane Austen movies, in part because of the French Revolution and looking back at Greece as a model democratic society, so women tried to dress like they were Greek statues. In a world without a Greece or a France, would the same kind of transition have happened? Or would it have happened for a different reason — some fashion leader is seen outside in her nightgown, and soon everyone’s dressing that way? Or maybe there were still statues in flowing robes for another reason, and people start emulating that style. That style change was so drastic that it makes a lovely visual shorthand to separate those who are on the leading edge of fashion from those who are more provincial, like the latest season of Poldark, in which the women who’d been to London dressed very differently from those who’d stayed in Cornwall, and once a Cornwall woman had been to London, she returned home wearing very different clothes. Cornwall was still in Georgian style, with a tight bodice and full skirt, while London was in Regency style, with the column silhouette and high waist.

And, no, thinking of setting a book in a world that emulates this era is not merely an excuse to watch a bunch of Jane Austen movies. Really. (Though it may have been influenced by the fact that my PBS station is rerunning the Pride and Prejudice miniseries.)

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