Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Regrets, I have a few ...

My first attempt at writing a full novel was probably doomed from the get-go. Knowing it was an apprentice piece, I avoided using my first idea, the story I really wanted to write (set in Late 5th century Britain), I very much let my imagination run free with the 6th century story.

The lead character of the 6th century story started off as ambiguous on several fronts, including gender (problem 1), it was also written in first person (problem 2) and it grew very organically indeed (problem 3) and I didn't ultimately know what the story was about (problem 4)

Problem 1 (gender) was centred around lack of commitment to the idea of having a female warrior as a central character. Indeed, I submitted a partial manuscript to the Romantic Novelists' Assoc's New Writers' Scheme with this ambiguity still in place! It was in my mind that this character was concealing she was female, but not in any great 'secret' sense, she was just living as a warrior and was sufficiently tough to 'pass' as a bloke. But at some point the fact she was female was going to be revealed, and I couldn't decide how. However, constantly, during writing I changed my mind, and wanted to switch the lead to being a chap instead! Doh!

More of these problems later. I'd better get on with compiling my re-enactment group's newsletter. Needless to say, I do Late Roman and early Anglo-Saxon re-enactment, which helps enhance my understanding of how artefacts were used and how it feels to use them (I don't get that from coldly studying artefacts via my archaeology). For example, two cast bronze chatelaines (ornamental keys), as strung at the waist of early Anglian women, jingle together when the wearer walks. I unreservedly recommend re-enactment as a method of research. Elizabeth Chadwick, author of many excellent historical novels, also does re-enactment and I think it shows in her writing, as she easily integrates the practical aspects of her era (11-12th century) into her writing. She's also a great person to talk with!


At 11:32 am GMT, Blogger Kate Allan said...

Nothing wrong with female lead warrior types. Well, I would say that.

At 1:49 pm GMT, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Historically, I don't have much of a problem with them either, see recent Brougham publication (eg.,,2-1411715,00.html). But with this story (being my first) I wasn't half in a dither! I think I could have chosen an easier subject.


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