U is for Unorthodox

UHiya, there! My name is Rachael Kosinski. I’m twenty years old, tower over most girls my age, and juggle writing with going to college. I am NOT Cindy Carroll, as you may guess as you read down this post, but I WILL continue her A to Z April Challenge with the letter “U.” I didn’t have time to do a challenge of my own, and am very grateful I got the chance to jump in on someone else’s. “U” is for unorthodox. Not the opposite of a usually Greek or Russian religion—no. I mean unusual, nonconformist, or something you probably just shouldn’t do.

Which brings me to the time I cased a local art exhibit while researching my latest story.

Writers, if you think about it, are the most unorthodox people out there. They make a point of making things up for a living and frequently hold conversations in their minds with people who don’t physically exist. Research, more specifically, can take them down very strange and twisted paths. Recently I’ve been drafting a story that involves art forgeries and a girl who can hear memories on paintings. Which means I needed to know about art crime, and the inner details of certain artworks: what they’re made of, how big they are, where they’re located and when they’ve traveled. In a single afternoon I crawled through the FBI’s article collections of forgery rings and Ponzi schemes and reached pages that were password protected. Searches on Interpol, Monet ID numbers, layouts of museums and searches on certain types of dueling guns more than likely put me on a government watch list. Then, of course, I actually cased a place.

I didn’t even mean to. My museum studies class (I’m an art history major) attended an exhibition opening for one of the professors. Thirty years’ worth of artwork hung on the walls in watercolor and egg tempura. There were abstract pieces and religious reworking, but he’d gone through a multicolor phase and there was this large painting that I adored so much I almost asked him if I could buy it. About maybe three by five feet, a nude woman stood with a forest as backdrop, only none of the colors were normal. Shades hung in blue, highlights in orange or red. It was gorgeous. While he gave a speech on how and when he made the works, my mind wandered. Really, the exhibit was in our arts building, which was open late into the night. Squinting at the ceiling, I saw no security cameras. The only problem would be figuring out the punch code to the room’s door, but I was an art history student and knew the curator; maybe I could lie my way into her giving me the code…? The plan didn’t take me any farther than lifting the painting from the wall and stashing it under my bed in my dorm room, but it had taken place in my head. I had really examined a situation and hypothetically laid groundwork for an art theft. And it was kind of thrilling. Hypothetically, of course! 🙂

Disclaimer: I promise I would never really steal anything; I’d feel way too guilty. But it raised lots of questions for me: what’s the craziest thing you’ve done for research? I always get into the mindset of my characters so I can try to see things the way they do; hence theoretically attempting to steal a professor’s painting. Are you all note-taking or do you try to do the things your characters do, just to be able to describe them more realistically? It could be anything; taking a jujitsu class because your protagonist is a master at it, peeking into the kitchen of a fancy restaurant because your villain daylights as a sous chef, or going spelunking because your pirate’s treasure lies in a cave and you want to write the subterranean atmosphere like a pro.

X, Rachael


The Christmas Lights FINALBlurb:

“Where do Christmas lights come from?”
Those tiny bulbs of color that burn on a Christmas tree,
Or outside a house to shine in the night.
Does anyone really know where they originate?
What if someone told you
They weren’t intended for Christmas at all,
But really for a miracle?
That they were for love, a desperate idea, to light a boy’s way home?
In that case, you must have some questions. What boy? What love?
Have a seat. Allow me to tell you a story.


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Visit Rachel’s website: http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com

Cindy here!

Interesting post! The craziest thing (so far) that I’ve done is attend Citizens’ Police Academy to get a better idea of how my officers would do their job.

Keep writing.

Balancing facts and story in historical fiction

Hi everyone. Welcome to GWN’s blog. Relax, get a cup of whatever you have in the morning to wake you up and get ready for some tips on historical accuracy in historical fiction from Erin Farwell.

Here’s Erin!

IMG_1300_ppAn author’s job is to tell a story and to tell it well. Like a juggler with several balls in the air, a writer must keep their story balanced with regard to plot, characters, setting, and pacing. Regardless of the genre, the story must be grounded in a specific time and place. This is especially true for historical fiction, where one false move can wrench a reader from the world you’ve created. Keeping a reader engaged is both the goal and the challenge.


With historical fiction it is easy to make a misstep, creating a rift between reader and the story. Here are some of the common errors historical fiction writers make and how to avoid them:


  • Sharing your research and forgetting to tell a story. Most writers have more facts and details at their disposal than they will ever use in a book. I find this helpful when I write because I am able to understand the life of my characters even if I don’t include everything in the story. The problem occurs when a writer comes across a detail or series of facts that he or she finds fascinating and wants to share with the world. The moment your research takes precedence over plot or character development, you risk alienating the reader. If you rearrange a scene or create a convoluted set of circumstance just to share a fact that you find interesting, stop. If the detail doesn’t naturally fit in the story, it doesn’t belong there. You might use it in another project but don’t force it into this one. Keep the story your priority.


  • Highlighting a process that was different at the time the story is set than it would be today. Writing about the small details of your world will ground the story for readers and help them empathize with the characters. However sharing details is not the same as sharing processes. Unless the information is necessary to the plot, a reader doesn’t need to know the specifics of how to start a wood burning stove, milk a cow, forge a horseshoe, cook over an open fire, or weave cloth. You need to trust that your readers to have their own knowledge that they bring to the story. As a general rule of thumb, if someone living in the time the story is set would find a process unworthy of comment, so should your characters unless it is critical to your plot or character development.


  • Using modern concepts or verbiage in your story. In my novel I have a scene in which a young boy leads an adult to a house. The boy runs ahead, then back to the adult, then ahead again. As I wrote the scene I wanted to describe the boy’s behavior as being like a yoyo. A quick internet search informed me that while yoyos did exist in 1927, they had just come on the market and were only sold California. The phrase I wanted to use was not a part of society’s lexicon in 1927 so I had to find a different description. The same was true when I said someone was going to babysit a child. In 1927 you minded a child, not babysat. These may seem like small issues, unworthy of notice, but many readers will catch them and it will draw them out of the story.


  • Acknowledging a future event. Another name for this problem is author intrusion. There are times when an author might be tempted to write something like: “Little did Jeb know that the swamp he hunted in would one day be transformed into the city of Miami.” This type of phrase yanks a reader out of the world you’ve created and they may not wish to come back. The characters can only know what the typical person would know at the time the story is set and to include anything else is a disservice both to the reader and to your work.  Sometimes this situation can occur more subtly then you might be aware. One of my personal pet peeves is when a book set in the 1920s or 1930s has the phrase “World War I” rather than “the Great War.” The Great War didn’t become WWI until the Second World War started. The nuances are small but significant.


  • Placing accuracy over story. While accuracy is of great importance in historical fiction, you don’t need to be fanatical when certain issues arise. For example, if a shift in the location of a building, especially one that is not generally known to the typical reader, is a better fit for your story, do it. Just don’t put the Parthenon in France. In my novel a hotel that I use as a landmark was closed for renovations in 1927. I am probably one of five people who know this and no one else is likely to care. Originally I had written the situation accurately but later realized I had spent too much time on what was to have been a passing comment. I decided to trade pacing over fact, which was the right choice for the story.


Farwell-Shadowlands-Final Cover.inddAs writers of historical fiction we face a heavy burden. Readers expect to be taken into the past with an entertaining plot, interesting characters and historical accuracy. We are truly jugglers, balancing these expectations within the construct of our plot, pacing, characters and the story as a whole, but that is the key. As long as your research supports the story rather than becomes the story, you will avoid one of the biggest mistakes made by emerging historical novelists.

Visit Erin’s website: http://www.erinfarwell.com
Check out Erin’s Author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/erinfarwell
Find Erin on GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/Erin50

Cindy here again!

Some great points here, Erin! When I’m going back to revise my historicals I will keep these tips in mind.

Happy Writing!


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