Allison Thurman's musings on writing, the weird, writing the weird, and other amusements
Author: Allison Thurman
Allison Thurman has always made stuff: out of fabric, metal, beads, even exaggerated fencing moves. Of late she makes stories out of weird history, with fragments of pop culture, unsolved mysteries, and science fiction mixed in for texture.
She lives in a galaxy far, far away (well, the DC metro area) with too many books and swords.
Like a lot of histfic fans I’ve been enjoying Starz’ “The White Princess”. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is. I’m not sure it matters.
The story plays with one of the gaps in our knowledge that is so ripe for fictionalization: how did Henry VII and his queen Elizabeth of York develop a happy marriage? Sources tell us Henry mourned Elizabeth deeply when she died, but not how a woman could be happy with a man who killed her uncle and deposed her family. Two episodes in I think the miniseries (based on Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same name) plays with this question admirably.
Even if the Woodvilles did try to lure Edward IV into marrying Elizabeth through supernatural means they may not have had to: she was reputed to be a great beauty and charming to boot.
Still, if those lead figures were Jaquetta’s she was using them for something, but that may not mean much. People at all levels of society dabbled in witchcraft during the early modern period. For that I do have a footnote: Keith Thomas’ Religion and the Decline of Magic.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of suck, I will not falter…At least, I hope I won’t.
It’s fair to say that I’m not going to have the second draft done by the HNS conference in June. Well and so–I work with the time I’ve got and while it’s not as fast as I’d like at least it’s steady.
But I’ve run into parts of this book that I…despise is not too strong a word. One section in particular I still hate despite acting on quality feedback, and though I move on to the next part I have to wonder if my second draft isn’t turning into just another, worse, first draft.
My plea to my regional Historical Novel Society chapter resulted in: get more critiques. Which I can’t argue with. Second (and third, and fourth) pairs of eyes catch what I can’t because I’ve been looking at the damn thing too long.
I have a local critique group but can’t always get to physical meetings. I’m checking out Scribophile on the recommendation of another HNS colleague to see if online critique exchanges are equally helpful.
Totally unrelated (or not?): my fencing game has been in the valley of suck as well. New coach, new footwork, so I’ve been clomping all over the strip like an asthmatic elephant for months.
Until this past weekend when some of it finally “clicked”.
This is a consistent pattern with my fencing: I have to sweat away in the valley of suck to make a higher (how’s that for a cheesy/tortured metaphor?) I wonder if my writing progress will be the same. I’ve been fencing sixteen years and this pattern remains. I’ve only been writing for four.
Four! (I started at the cusp of a previous government shutdown, and here I am again).Has it been that long? Or has it been that brief?
How The White Princess is a Girl-Powered Game of Thrones: short version: the real Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin borrowed heavily from the Wars of the Roses but the history doesn’t need much embroidering: woman has to marry man who just killed her uncle – the uncle who may have killed her brothers to take the crown for himself. Throw in conniving relatives and shifting alliances for spice and I’ll be watching.
Not the kind of plot bunny I can just scratch a couple of lines and save in my “to write” file either. It’s a really great weird historical/intrusive entity/questionable reality type bunny.
It’s so good I’m loath to share it with anyone for fear of getting scooped (which is silly, but that’s another post). So good, in fact, that I’m tempted to drop the novel-in-progress to plummet down this new research rabbit hole.
But I reined myself in.
Look, I’ve been struggling with rewrites. My schedule is cluttered of late and distractions of every sort compete for my limited time. Research is comparatively easy because I don’t have to invent anything or kludge all the cool stuff into a coherent narrative: all the things I beat my head against with the WIP.
But part of this novel-writing thing is finishing the damn book. That means keeping at it even when it’s not fun or easy.
So I’ve (carefully, lovingly) trapped the plot bunny with a list of sources and ideas and filed it away with the others. Pro: I’ll never run out of ideas. Con: I can only do them one at a time.
I’m not talking about the subjectivity of reality or how much subjective experiences do/do not matter, but something far more mundane: generalized anxiety. I wasn’t diagnosed until my twenties but it’s been a problem all my life. All these stupid things everything does from time to time are my system defaults. Short version: I can’t trust my intuition because it’s a paranoid idiot.
Not that it’s not fixable. With treatment I no longer jump at every damn thing but risk assessment isn’t a gut thing so I have to consciously overwrite my bad mental habits.
This is on my mind because I’m on several learning curves and the constant forebrain check of the stuff my lizard brain can’t handle has been exhausting. Doesn’t stop me fervently overthinking everything though, and the writing is falling into a spiral perfectionism paralysis. I’m digging out, but it’s taking time so I just listen to my internal Lying Cat hissing lying, lying, lying.
The Tudor guide to colonising the world: in case “Bluff King Hal”‘s old digs aren’t big enough for you, read about Richard Hakluyt’s sixteenth century travel guides of the New World. Mind, he never actually left Europe, so take with a grain of salt.