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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Old Timey Newspapers -- My Go To For Research





Since having discovered access to old newspapers on microfiche through a fellow historical society board member and friend, I've found a wealth of information to questions I've been wondering about regarding my novel-in-progress, Lake One. Answers to those questions and those I hadn't even asked yet. Let me tell you, those old newspapers are a historical writer's jackpot. And one of the best parts about this discovery is that they are located at the library the next town over (about eleven miles) so I have easy access to them. The rolls are put on a scanner that's hooked up to a computer and I can save whole pages or just sections of a page into files on a thumb drive. Love it!

The newspapers are pretty fun to read too. The vernacular of the day, as I've heard it described, was salty and quite humorous, depending on the story. They would take, for instance, an incident that did not go so well for a fella, he hiring a moody horse and cutter to go visit his school ma'am girl, the horse getting spooked and busting up the cutter, all the while writing the story in a hilarious way, though I'm sure it wasn't too funny for the fella at the time. These particular stories are helpful in that I can learn a bit of how people may have talked as they incorporate a bit of slang from back in the day and are written more like someone telling you a story rather than reporting the news.

Said spooked horse article. Click photo to enlarge to read it.

Ads in the newspapers are very helpful as well. They give me a peek into what items cost back in those days, what was being sold, what movies were playing at the theater, and even some of the fashion of the day. Announcements of events are helpful too, so if I decide I want to include an event in the story I can, but generally I don't because they have nothing to add to the story other than to give it a more authentic feel.

Speaking of not including things if they don't add to the story, one must resist the urge to include interesting things for the sake of adding interesting things to tell the reader, but have nothing to do with your story. For instance, I learned that within my story's timeline there was a band of gypsies that were going through the area and pillaging what they could from local businesses. They first struck Nashville before heading to Hastings, where the police there had been warned before the gypsies' arrival and were rounded up and escorted out of town, and then tried to hit a country store south of town. The shopkeeper's son made a warning shot with his rifle and the gypsies had a second thought about that, and instead commenced toward Battle Creek. That would have been something fun to add to my story, perhaps might even get a mention still, but since it has nothing to do with the story I'm writing, the gypsy saga will have to remain untold except in the paper.

Going through these papers, as mentioned earlier, I'd found answers to some of the questions I've been wondering about since I started this story. For instance, who was the sheriff at the time, and who would have been Jennie's school teacher? What activities were happening, when and where, during the Fourth of July? When did school let out (still as of now searching for that one) and when did it start back up (that one was answered)? What was the train schedule? Stuff like that.

Train Schedule for the week of July 19th, 1923.


What I'm telling in this post is most likely nothing new to someone who writes historical novels, but maybe for someone starting out this may be an avenue one hadn't thought to look before. I knew for a while that going through old papers would be helpful in my research for Lake One, but I had no idea how to find them until just a few months ago. And I'm so glad I did.

Speaking of Lake One, progress had been going pretty steadily for a while since late January, but has dropped to near nothing in the last couple of weeks with the day job demanding most of my energy. And now that spring has sprung, more of my energies will be going toward outdoor chores. I'm going to try not to slip back into the bad habit of not writing again, but I can't guarantee it. I kind of got stuck in this current section in the novel not knowing how to continue on with it. Should I write it this way, or write it that way? I think I know the answer now and I just need to get off the internet (you damn siren) and just write. I also want to draw my characters but fear is stopping me dead cold before I even start. Drawing used to come so easily to me. Not so much anymore. If what I'm drawing doesn't come out right fairly quickly, I get easily frustrated and scrap it. Why did I let myself go out of practice with drawing?

Enough of rambling, time to get to work, and get off the dang internet.