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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Invaluable writing tool

Not long ago (actually October 5, 2010 according to the interview date) I was sitting in my car listening to the radio and stumbled upon an interview by NPR with author Bill Bryson.  The interview was about his new book, At Home.  You can find the interview HERE

Despite the potential to be quite possibly one of the most boring interviews imaginable, I was completely captivated.  At that point in my writing career, I was up to my eyeballs in writing Exiled and  was greedily seeking resources to add realism to the time period I was writing.

If you're a writer and your writing ever takes you inside a home, you MUST read this book.  Genius in its layout, the book takes you through the history of the house, room-by-room.  Exiled takes place in the late 1800's. In Bryson's book, I was able to find what a home from that time period would contain, how it would be laid out as well as background on the era. 

Even with my description, the book may sound boring but trust me, it isn't.  No it isn't a fantasy story that takes you to far off places.  What makes At Home great is the flow, the content and the readability.  This is not a textbook but, like most fiction (which it is not) it transports you to the time period he is describing. It transports you into the room he is explaining.  In the end, you have a better understanding of how things were in the home and why they are the way they are today.  This insight is invaluable to any writer.

Take this excerpt, for example: 

We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle, a good candle, provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100 watt lightbulb. Open your refrigerator door, and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the 18th century. The world at night, for much of history, was a very dark place indeed.

My copy is loaded with those multi-colored post-it notes marking pages of interest so I could go back and pull out the things I thought could be usable in my story.  I still flip back through the book as I work on The Never Chronicles #2 (title TBD)

Trust me when I say, I used plenty of them. Find it at the library, find it online, get it and read it.  Trust me, you'll thank me for the recommendation.


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  1. Bad link for the excerpt, at least in Chrome. And I need to borrow that, I promise to not leave it out where the dog can get it like I did with the last post-it marked book you loaned me!