Writing historical novels can be daunting. The big challenge is to be able to immerse the reader in another time. In order to do that, I have to know all about said time. This means a lot of reading. A lot. Which is fine because I really dig reading about history.
Sometimes, however, I need to know less about historical facts and more about real feelings. What does it feel like to jump from a height of 2,000 feet? If a person isn’t used to riding a horse, what kinds of mistakes might they make? What would a drowning person say in German?
This is where my special little corner of the internet swoops in to save my day like a Big Damn Hero. I’m talking about reddit. Not reddit-in-general, but reddit-specific. All those little sub reddits that collect people with very specific interests and abilities. It’s not a website – it’s a chance to interview experts from all over the world.
When I needed to know how my WWI parachute might feel, I hopped on /r/skydiving. Within a few hours, I had lots of different perspectives on the sensations my character might have been going through. Particulars on a language? I’ve been to /r/Germany and /r/Spanish to get details, even vernacular from my time period, which enrich my stories. Just this week, I’ve gotten terrific insight about horse riding from experts and details about the particulars of stomach bullet wounds from ER doctors.
In my real life, it would take forever to hunt all these people down. To say nothing of the raised eyebrows you get when you start to talk about bullet wounds with your family doctor. On the internet, however, you can dive right in. Sure, some level of trust is involved. Is this person truly an expert? But after spending years on a forum dedicated to such particular, specific interests – the fakers are easy to spot and pretty much weed themselves out of the crowd.
When I think of writers who wrote such masterpeices before the internet, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe at all they were able to accomplish without having the world at their fingertips as I do. And more than a little guilty!
And on that note, I better get back to my story. The end of my Billy story is coming up and unless reddit has spawned /r/oldwestcardcheats overnight, I have a feeling I’m going to be researching this one the old fashioned way.