Names in late 1700’s America

I’ve needed some actual ~1800 given names for some time. A fellow named Douglas Galbi has some very useful lists at galbithink.org.

He has separate lists of surnames, male and female, which list names by their descending frequency of occurrence. It’s a great help.

Another resource is the list of names of those aboard the prison ship Jersey, in New York harbor. You can find that and more at http://www.usmm.org/revdead.html

Advertisements

Who is that guy?

My historical novel (second of a three-part series) involves a first person narrator/protagonist named Jack Clark, who in 1801 travels to Tripoli at the behest of Thomas Jefferson. There he finds himself caught up in the beginning of America’s first foreign war.

It’s relatively easy to keep Jack’s voice consistent because he’s the character doing most of the talking, either to the reader or to others in the stories. But what about them, those other major and minor characters? How do I keep them consistent, and individual as well?

Putting myself into their heads, is one way to put it. And I do it one character at a time. That is, after I’ve got a first draft — whether it’s just a scene or chapter, or the entire book — I read through for each character, one at character at a time.

During these readings I ask: Does she repeat herself? If so, is that one of her character traits, or is it lazy writing? Does he speak in a consistent manner? If not, is it story context driving the differences, or is it just more lazy writing?

There’s, more of course, but if you find yourself thinking, ‘this character is a different person,’ you’ve discovered something that would distract your readers, even if they weren’t sure why. Armed with that knowledge you can fix the problem, and your narrative will flow better.

Scrivener

Historical fiction writer Susanna Fraser describes in a recent post some of her qualms about switching to Scrivener¬†as a writing platform. It’s an excellent posting that sheds some light on her writing process.

A thought-provoking question comes at the end of her post:
“I wonder how much you can really force your process in a direction that’s unnatural for you?” she asks. Making me realize that although I’m typing this on a computer, using Markdown in a plain-text editor for the little formatting I need, first drafts of my fictional work are all done with pencil on paper.

So, How far can I force my own process? For first drafts, it seems, only about as far as I could throw my pencil.

Are you actually ‘writing’ ?

I guess it’s time to mention that wasting time is a matter of discipline: “Is this research, or pud-pullng?” *

You know, writers aren’t forced to waste time, but we must be aware of the difference between actual research and plain old entertainment. We must also be alert for a terrifying realization that goes something like this: “Jeebus, this arcane essay about Hamilton’s hat size is so much more interesting than my own story!” At which point that writer might want to reassess his commitment to the craft.

So Yes, reading up on hemp-growing by the Founding Fathers (a hot topic these days on the history sites) might be research. But, well, you know what I mean.

* Excess-italic alert!

Writing machine fail

I’d like to report that my lovely three-month-old computer is only diseased, but it is in fact deceased. I believe it’s the logic board rather than the HD, but I have all my writing redundantly backed up in any case.

This morning I’m off to the service wizards, where I do more pencil-on-paper drafts as I wait for my appointment with destiny.