I’ve been planning for my NaNoWriMo 2012 piece, intending to tackle the formidable task of historical fiction. It’s leading me into the unfathomable depths of the Antebellum South, and possibly absolute madness. My reading list is staggering, and I’m pretty certain the ‘historical’ portion of my project is going to take vastly more time than the ‘fiction’ part of it. It’s all absolutely fascinating, but each new thing I turn up sends me down another equally interesting and meandering path as I try to really understand a life from which I’m almost a world and 150 years removed.
I’m not a stickler for fact. Creative embellishment is totally fine with me, but I feel more comfortable bending the facts when I at least have a firm grasp of what they are. Nothing has ever made me miss university life and the wonder of online databases like JSTOR more (dear college, i gave you money and shit was crazy but I need research, alumni privilege maybe?) when google searches turn up leads I can’t access.
A visit from my father today presented an unexpected boon–he announced a business daytrip to Virginia next week, so I’m going to tag along and go straight to a primary source, Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy. The website boasts collections of cartes de visite and daguerreotypes, physical artifacts themed around the lives of soldiers and civilians, and collections of buttons! One thousand buttons, guys! The only thing about all this that makes me sad is how I never cared about history like this in school. Maybe it just wasn’t personal enough, because reading diaries and being able to identify with people of the past on a personal level instead of exclusively for their contributions to a big picture resonates with me in a way that textbooks never could.
But back to NaNo! I’m planning to follow a young woman from New Orleans and her family into the Civil War, dealing with the things they do to survive and how a war of ideology drives them closer together or far apart. Being from New Jersey (and currently living outside Philadelphia) I’m excited to explore a side of the war I’ve never given much consideration to; history classes never delved into the thought processes of the Confederacy, its supporters, and those who got swept along for the ride.
I’ve got a few characters and a very loose idea of the story I’d like to tell, but no real outlines or details; so far I’m working out key dates and events in New Orleans before and during the war and trying to get a grasp on day-to-day life in hopes that will help me focus my plot goals and character particulars.
I’m curious to hear what other people are planning for this year, and how far along you are in said planning if you’d care to share! Also if you’re a history buff and have any must-reads about the Confederacy, the Civil War, Antebellum New Orleans, free people of color, Creole life, women as pertains to any of the aforementioned, or anything else that is relevant or interesting, send it along! Primary sources are especially valuable!