Sorry for the late post, but I have been writing and getting a lot on paper. This is day two of my blog on my writing process of writing a new book from beginning to end in 30 days.
Today I focused on milieu. The reason I focused on milieu is because after hooking a reader with the first chapter, I want them to ‘live’ inside the story along with my characters. I want them to breathe the air and hear the wheels of the carriage as it rolls. You might be asking what is milieu? Milieu is the backdrop of your story, where everything is taking place. The story I’m writing is the second book in a series and will start in summer in the year 1848 in the city of New Orleans and while I'm writing scenes I want to give snippets of visual imagination that will really make the reader know they are 'living' in 1848.
This happens to be 13 years before the Civil War, by the way. If I think about 1848 in New Orleans, of course it’s going to look different than New Orleans looks today. So what’s necessary is doing a little research. I’ve been writing for many years and what I’ve learned is I used to do a lot of research of which most of it I couldn’t use. Time just isn’t on my side to spend an extraordinary amount of time on research, so what I’m going to do is only research the things I need to do research on.
So what did New Orleans look like in 1848? Well, there were no camera back then so the only things online are drawings. But I want to see something real and I want to describe something real, like what does the mansion on the Ashleywood plantation look like? If anyone looks online, they can find plenty of pictures of plantation mansions that are still standing today. The pictures below aren't how I see Ashleywood in my mind, but it does give an image of true New Orleans plantation life. What about slave cabins? What did they look like? Pay attention to the elm trees and how large they grow. Elm trees like these definitely reminds me of New Orleans. Also notice how thin the grass is. This is because New Orleans sits below sea level. Grass grows differently there.
Research is important. Although I’m writing fiction, I can’t just throw something in my story that couldn’t have happened in the era, and not only the era but the year I’m writing about. So as I was cranking out more pages while listening to the voices, I constantly stopped to look things up. What things? I wanted to know about horse drawn carriages, as their designs changed over the years. I also wanted to find out what was happening politically in America and specifically in New Orleans, such as The Picayune (a newspaper) started printing during this time. My history of this era is pretty good from former research I’ve done in the past, but when writing sometimes I like visuals, so seeing New Orleans landscapes, and drawings of carriages and, oh, how can I forget? Fashion during this era. I really needed this part as I wrote a sex scene the voices told me about. During the 1840s women wore seven pieces of undergarments underneath their skirts. Did you know that? Did you also know that ‘panties’ hadn’t been invented yet? I like mentioning details like this when I’m writing a historical. So imagine this. A man and woman are feeling amorous and go off into a room together. What did men wear in 1848? How many layers is the woman going to have to go through to get to the goods??? The same with women. We’re talking peeling back a lot of layers here just to get good and started.
Can you imagine seven pieces of undergarments underneath these dresses??
Another thing I focused on today was sinking the reader so into the story that nothing else will exist while they’re reading. Because the opening of my story could have led in many directions, I gave a few of them some thought and while giving them thought another chapter unfolded about Edouard and how he, too, is sinking in the plight he’s found himself in. Will he commit murder? Where will his devotion lie? Will he keep what his mother asked of him in secret or will place trust in someone he hadn’t thought he would? Hmmm… This is why writing is so much fun, because authors are taking the same journey as the reader. As long as I keep my characters in check with their personalities, anything can happen. And I do mean anything.
I also wrote a chapter about Pierre. As the patriarch of his family and the owner of two massive plantations, as well as businesses in state and in Europe and France, and the master of hundreds of slaves, he has a lot on his plate, but let’s not forget. Two women are in his life. Seems like he’s jinxing himself by having these women live so closely together and on the same land. That brings me to Sarah. What will become of her and her relationship with her sister?
What I love about fiction and listening to the voices, you never know where the journey will take you, and what the voices told me about Sarah today will put a big spin on this story!
I know you would like for me to paste another chapter, but unfortunately, I can’t or it will spoil it for you later on. But if you’re reading this blog to help you write your own story, remember this. In chapter one I introduced a dilemma that can lead to someone dying. In chapter two the plot thickens. What had Jenna been planning when she invited Andreu inside her home? Chapter three starts with a little milieu, because I want the reader to see everything that’s happening like a movie playing in their mind. I also took the time to do a little research to make sure the things I mention will be accurate for the era I’m writing in.
Even though you may not be writing a historical, you still want to do the same things: open with tension and a dilemma. Chapter two thicken the plot. Provide some milieu. I will be offering classes on writing the first chapters for Romance, Thriller Suspense, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and maybe even YA, so make sure you continue to check out the Workshop tab on my site, and don't forget that you can always pick up my writing guide, Anyone Can Write for those who need a little more help.
I’ll have much more for you tomorrow, so stay tuned! I will also get back to posting another chapter. Let me figure out which one I will share, as I don’t want to give too much of my plot away on the blog or then again, maybe I will. But until then, good luck with writing.