Wednesday, July 9, 2008

DID ROMANS WEAR UNDERWEAR?

Minnette Meador
Working on Starsight II Edits
Mood: Intrigued

I have always been a closet historian, knowing just enough to make me extremely dangerous. Studying Western Civilization in college gave me enough knowledge to become addicted to the subject for life. It came in handy last year when I decided to write two historical romance novels about ancient Roman Britannia. I erroneously thought, “Hey, I’ve been studying this period for years…this should be a breeze!”

Wrong
.

The biggest problem I had was not in the history of the time, but in reconstructing the realities of day-to-day living. It was questions like, what kind of plates did they use? Did they use silverware? How were babies delivered? Did they wear gloves in the winter? What was the tack like for the horses? Did they wear underwear? Well, you get the idea. Those questions plagued me. So I sat in my comfy chair, closed my eyes, and concentrated on the story. This, to me, is the best part of writing…shutting out the modern world and putting yourself in another time and place. Imagining what your day would be like as a Roman soldier, a Celtic queen, or a gladiator. Not focusing on what’s on the page, but what's NOT on the page, what happened before and after. Since I write fantasy, as well, the process is the same. Once you are there, you discover what questions to ask and then start your research. One of my best mentors used to tell me, “Research is a double edged sword; too much, and you will get lost and never finish the book; too little, and you betray your readers. Research to your story…find out enough to move it forward, to keep it vibrant. You are a writer, not a historian.” I’ve always taken that advice to heart.

I have been very fortunate to find real historians to help me with my work and to validate the facts. The Frazier Museum and Association of Renaissance Marshal Arts have been invaluable to me. There are countless resources out there; libraries, museums, internet, and universities, just to name a few. Below is a very short list of a few internet sites I have used.

I strongly suggest, whether you are a writer or not, to find a comfortable place, close your eyes, let your mind take you somewhere back in time, and imagine what your day would have been like. I guarantee, you will have a blast doing it! Good reading, good writing, good luck!

http://www.thearma.org/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/
http://www.teacheroz.com/romans.htm
http://www.roman-britain.org/
http://www.larp.com/legioxx/index.html
http://www.wikipedia.org/
http://mp_pollett.tripod.com/idiomexp.htm

Minnette Meador
The Centurion & The Queen
Starsight
www.minnettemeador.com
http://minnettemeador.blogspot.com

5 comments:

Karen Duvall said...

Putting yourself in the time and location of your story is a great idea! I'll definitely give it a try. What a great way to where your character's skin for a while.

Jessa Slade said...

Putting yourself in your characters' underwear... Definitely more intimate than in their shoes :)

Delle Jacobs said...

...and so the underwear question...

Well?

Okay, okay, I know this is about research, not about the answers. Some great reference sites there, Minnette!

Genene Valleau said...

I'm with Delle on this one: DID Romans wear underwear? If you're going to tease with the title ... LOL!

"Research TO the story." What a great piece of advice, as well as close your eyes and be in the time of your story.

I haven't written historicals because of the research angle and getting the facts accurate. Or maybe I just don't want to live without indoor plumbing. :)

I'm glad you historical writers are "addicted" to research so I can read wonderful novels set in the past and not have to do the research!

Minnette Meador said...

Actually, some wore loin clothes, some did not. More than likely, my hero did. He was a very meticulous man, after all. ~LOL~ I hadn't thought of puttin myself in a character's underwear, but what a great idea! As far as the research...you never know 'til you try. It's my favorite part of writing anymore! M:)