Types of Love
Types of Love
Historical Romance - How to add layers to your scenes
by Anthony Ehlers for Writers Write
In terms of historical fiction, we look back. We look back because that is where the answers lie. It is all about context. The research must be fun. It must also fit your story, and lift the narrative.
Show us the ‘personality’ of that era, so that the historical setting becomes almost another character: show the sexual, gender and social politics, the mood of the times etc.
Five ways to add context
- History itself. Who was in power at the time? Why? What was the main trade? What were the marriage laws? Historical detail is a great way to inform or give impetus to the plot, such as the London Season for Debutantes, etc.
- How circumstances affect characters. We must never just lay on historical information, but rather weave into the story and it should ideally be seen through the lens of the character. How does she feel about how society treats women, etc.?
- Sense it. Make use of the senses—the smell of the docks, the latest French perfume, the sight of a new ship or a building, the type of music in vogue, etc. – and tie those to the historical ambience of the world
- Dress it. Make sure you know what your heroine is wearing, what undergarments support it, what was considered appropriate or risqué, and what kind of dress would suit your character best
- Detail it. Go for small details that signal the reader that you’re building an authentic world – the dress, the dinner plate, the food, a cherished pet, an artwork or an objet d’art etc. Other details that may lift the narrative: modes of transport, whether it is a carriage or a horse (what kind?), the architecture, furniture, the literature of the day, details of places of worship and churches, the type of medicine, etc.
We need to go under the surface of the story, to know what life was like in that era and how your character is experiencing it. Remember that your reader may not know anything about the period or time—they need the writer to build the world, paint the picture, give colour, texture and emotion.
The characters don’t live in a vacuum-we need to build the characters’ world through details, sensory description; the world must be believable and entertaining.
Five exercises to help you
- Print images from Internet or collect photocopies from books and create a collage of these for your writing desk
- Describe the interior of the heroine’s bedroom as if you were writing for a nostalgia magazine or for a new experiential museum
- Describe the morning ritual of the hero: how he shaves, dresses, what ritual he may follow
- Create a dinner menu for a typical social meal of the time, and source ingredients for it – imagine the trip to the market
- Imagine a time traveller from the present happens upon your setting —have her write a dispatch back home to describe this extraordinary experience!
Negative Body Language - great resource for creating characters.
Supernatural Collective Nouns
“ We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving… We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac, and multivitamins… We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We never want to be as passive-aggressive as our mothers, never want to marry men as uninspired as our fathers… We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything. ”
(compiled by Pamela Haag at BigThink)
- Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.
Oh yes, this is an exquisite word, compressing a thrilling and scary relationship moment. It’s that delicious, cusp-y moment of imminent seduction. Neither of you has mustered the courage to make a move, yet. Hands haven’t been placed on knees; you’ve not kissed. But you’ve both conveyed enough to know that it will happen soon… very soon.
- Yuanfen(Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.From what I glean, in common usage yuanfen means the “binding force” that links two people together in any relationship.
But interestingly, “fate” isn’t the same thing as “destiny.” Even if lovers are fated to find each other they may not end up together. The proverb, “have fate without destiny,” describes couples who meet, but who don’t stay together, for whatever reason. It’s interesting, to distinguish in love between the fated and the destined. Romantic comedies, of course, confound the two.
- Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.
- Retrouvailles (French): The happiness of meeting again after a long time. This is such a basic concept, and so familiar to the growing ranks of commuter relationships, or to a relationship of lovers, who see each other only periodically for intense bursts of pleasure. I’m surprised we don’t have any equivalent word for this subset of relationship bliss. It’s a handy one for modern life.
- Ilunga (Bantu): A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time.
Apparently, in 2004, this word won the award as the world’s most difficult to translate. Although at first, I thought it did have a clear phrase equivalent in English: It’s the “three strikes and you’re out” policy. But ilunga conveys a subtler concept, because the feelings are different with each “strike.” The word elegantly conveys the progression toward intolerance, and the different shades of emotion that we feel at each stop along the way.
Ilunga captures what I’ve described as the shade of gray complexity in marriages—Not abusive marriages, but marriages that involve infidelity, for example. We’ve got tolerance, within reason, and we’ve got gradations of tolerance, and for different reasons. And then, we have our limit. The English language to describe this state of limits and tolerance flattens out the complexity into black and white, or binary code. You put up with it, or you don’t. You “stick it out,” or not.
Ilunga restores the gray scale, where many of us at least occasionally find ourselves in relationships, trying to love imperfect people who’ve failed us and whom we ourselves have failed.
- La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.
When I came across this word I thought of “unrequited” love. It’s not quite the same, though. “Unrequited love” describes a relationship state, but not a state of mind. Unrequited love encompasses the lover who isn’t reciprocating, as well as the lover who desires. La douleur exquise gets at the emotional heartache, specifically, of being the one whose love is unreciprocated.
- Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love.
This is different than “love at first sight,” since it implies that you might have a sense of imminent love, somewhere down the road, without yet feeling it. The term captures the intimation of inevitable love in the future, rather than the instant attraction implied by love at first sight.
- Ya’aburnee(Arabic): “You bury me.” It’s a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
The online dictionary that lists this word calls it “morbid and beautiful.” It’s the “How Could I Live Without You?” slickly insincere cliché of dating, polished into a more earnest, poetic term.
- Forelsket: (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you’re first falling in love.
This is a wonderful term for that blissful state, when all your senses are acute for the beloved, the pins and needles thrill of the novelty. There’s a phrase in English for this, but it’s clunky. It’s “New Relationship Energy,” or NRE.
- Saudade (Portuguese): The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost. Another linguist describes it as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.”
It’s interesting that saudade accommodates in one word the haunting desire for a lost love, or for an imaginary, impossible, never-to-be-experienced love. Whether the object has been lost or will never exist, it feels the same to the seeker, and leaves her in the same place: She has a desire with no future. Saudade doesn’t distinguish between a ghost, and a fantasy. Nor do our broken hearts, much of the time.
This post is beautiful.