Emperor Jing (Historical Fiction Novel)

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Emperor Jing (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:01 pm

^ That's a WIP title.

I'm a writer by trade. I've written a few books, but I haven't been able to secure a literary agent. I think this is largely due to me being overambitious with my work. Everything I've finished is just the first of several that I plan to write. While that's all well and good for me, it's kind of a turnoff for agents and publishers. It's not easy for them to take a chance on a new author with ambitious projects. My chances of being published are much better if I have a single, standalone novel to submit that isn't horribly long. And I tend to talk for a while.

Lately, I've been turning my efforts towards towards writing historical fiction (which is a bit easier to sell than the SF and Fantasy stuff I usually write). I was working on a story about the political troubles of Wu, from the Crown Prince Affair to the assassination of Sun Lin/Chen, but that got out of hand and turned into plans for a trilogy of novels - which is exactly the problem I have with my other work. Too long, too ambitious, too much to take a chance on.

So I started trying to think about other interesting people and events from the Three Kingdoms, because there's a lot of that and it's something that I know a thing or two about. I tried to think of someone who had an interesting, important life. Some of my favorite people, of course, lived far too long for the sort of story I need to write (dudes like Cao Cao and Sima Yi). I needed someone who didn't live all that long.

So (as you may have guessed from the WIP title) I decided I'd write a novel about Sima Shi.

It's historical fiction, but I want it to be as historically accurate as I possibly can make it. I've written a biography of Sima Shi before, but it is mostly limited to information from the ZZTJ and there are a lot of things I don't know, particularly regarding Sima Shi's life before he came to power.

I'm hoping that anyone who has any historical information about Sima Shi that isn't included in this biography could share it with me. It would be extremely helpful. I'll also have some general culture questions as I go through this and hopefully the community here can help me write the most accurate Three Kingdoms novel possible.
Last edited by capnnerefir on Fri Feb 14, 2014 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:08 pm

Okay, cultural question:

Who would call Sima Shi by his style name and who would use his given name? That's something I want to get right.
I realize that the answer probably changes as he gathers more power, so:
Before 239?: He was more or less a regular official at this time, without extraordinary rank.
Between 239 and 249?: Sima Yi was Grand Tutor at this point, which might change how people speak to Sima Shi.
Between 249 and 251?: At this point, Sima Yi was in charge of everything, which probably changed how Sima Shi was treated.
In 251?: He was greatly promoted after Sima Yi's death, which might affect things.
After 252?: Sima Shi was Grand General now. That probably matters.

I'm also curious about some specific people, since they might speak to him differently from regular people:
Sima Yi (His father)
Sima Zhao (And his other siblings)
Xiahou Hui, Lady Wu, Yang Huiyu (wives)
The Five Sima (their daughters)
Sima Yu (His son)
Xiahou Xuan (brother-in-law)
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby Jordan » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:51 am

Sounds awesome. When this comes to fruition, I'll pick up a copy. Unfortunately I don't really know the answer to your question but I just wanted to comment that the idea of a historical fiction novel on the time period being written is awesome.
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:56 am

Thanks for the support. I can't think of any writer who would ever turn down a word of encouragement. I'll be sure to keep everyone here updated on progress. Hopefully I can get the attention of someone who can answer this question.
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:43 pm

A couple more cultural questions.

What did people typically wear? I've heard robes and girdles mentioned a lot, but I'd like to have more of an idea what I'm talking about. Did people wear pants under their robes? What kinds of shoes were there? Did they have socks?

In that same vein, what was considered "formal attire"? The sort of thing you'd wear when you went to visit important people. What was armor typically made out of, and is there anything unusual about the armor a general might wear (i.e. was it fancier than usual, did they wear it over formal clothing, or anything like that)? What did people wear just for casual situations? How formal of an occasion was visiting one's relatives?

Also, what would be the proper way to refer to one's in-laws, and how distant did the relationship have to be before it was ignored? For example, Cao Shuang was the cousin of Sima Shi's wife (Xiahou Hui); would anybody care about that?
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby Tao Qian » Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:54 pm

I'm normally the guy doing questions, so I cannot help you, but all my support from a Spanish writer as megalomaniac as you (this time I will finish my saga, I swear it!) :)
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:00 pm

So I'm also a wannabe novelist and I've read a lot of historical fiction as well as fan fiction (and articles about the difference) and I've got a few suggestions that you can use or ignore as you wish.

The first thing is regarding your main character; I suggest using a fictional character. My reason for this is that if you use someone who was real it can be a turn off for people who are knowledgeable about the time period cos we already know all of your plot twists etc whereas if you use someone fictional who is close to Sima Shi it gives you much more room to play around with. Hence why people like Bernard Cornwall write about Sharpe not Wellington and Uhtred not King Alfred.

When people write about 3K very skilful and competent writers forget one of the basic rules of writing (myself included) don't introduce to many names in the first chapter. Not everyone knows as much about the 3Kera as us! :lol:

After a few years out of writing about the 3K (everything I did seemed to turn to fan fiction) I've got fresh inspiration to write about a fictional character called Gao Feng. Perhaps we could read and review each other’s work along the way?
Interested in the history behind the novel? Find a list of english language Three Kingdom sources here.
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby Tao Qian » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:21 pm

Maybe we should create a Three Kingdoms editorial :D
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:38 pm

Yeah sounds good to me Tao Qian.

Also just two more quick things that just came to my mind you might want to think about:

Based on your target audience do you want to use style names? If you’re aiming this towards the Asian market then by all means go for it. However if you want it to sell in the West I suspect characters having two names that are used in a context that your audience won't understand will be a turn off. It's certainly something that will make publishing companies think twice. I understand the want to be as historically accurate as possible but I think there is a trade of here between making it accessible but accurate.

For other cultural things I've got an incredible book called 'Everyday Life in Early Imperial China' by Michael Loewe which I bought entirely for use on making sure I get cultural things right.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0872 ... UTF8&psc=1

There it is on amazon.co.uk, it's pretty affordable but if you don't want to buy it yourself I'm happy to PM you specific sections but you need to wait until Tuesday when I get back to Lampeter!
Interested in the history behind the novel? Find a list of english language Three Kingdom sources here.
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Re: Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel)

Unread postby capnnerefir » Sat Sep 07, 2013 10:16 pm

Tao Qian wrote:I'm normally the guy doing questions, so I cannot help you, but all my support from a Spanish writer as megalomaniac as you (this time I will finish my saga, I swear it!) :)

Support is always good. Thanks!

Sun Fin wrote:The first thing is regarding your main character; I suggest using a fictional character. My reason for this is that if you use someone who was real it can be a turn off for people who are knowledgeable about the time period cos we already know all of your plot twists etc whereas if you use someone fictional who is close to Sima Shi it gives you much more room to play around with


My plan is to make the story more character-driven than plot-driven. I don't have much control over the plot, but what I can control is the emotional impact events have on Sima Shi and the readers. While the various conflicts within the story will certainly be entertaining, their real significance will be on how they effect Sima Shi - how he changes as a person as a result of his experiences and how his relationships with those around him are altered over time.

Sun Fin wrote:When people write about 3K very skilful and competent writers forget one of the basic rules of writing (myself included) don't introduce to many names in the first chapter

That's always a danger. It can be hard, especially with something like 3K, to keep the story focused. There were a lot of people doing a lot of things. Tight outlining and thoughtful prewritting should help with that. And my wife always tries to keep me from rambling.

Sun Fin wrote:Based on your target audience do you want to use style names?

I would expect that most of my audience would be people already familiar with the Three Kingdoms, or people who have some sort of interest in it. Those who are already familiar with 3K shouldn't be put off by style names, while those who want to learn would probably be happy to have that information. It would be naive to expect the story to do very well outside of that demographic, though one can always hope.

Sun Fin wrote:For other cultural things I've got an incredible book called 'Everyday Life in Early Imperial China' by Michael Loewe which I bought entirely for use on making sure I get cultural things right.

I hope it's helpful. I'll take a look at it and see if it has the sort of information I need. Thanks!

Sun Fin wrote:Perhaps we could read and review each other’s work along the way?

I see no harm in that. It's always good to get a fresh pair of eyes on a project. I know that some people have a very different impression of Sima Shi from what I envision, so it's good to get a variety of opinions.
Tao Qian wrote:Maybe we should create a Three Kingdoms editorial :D

I'm always happy to have someone to talk shop with.

Currently, I'm still in my outlining stages. Keeping the focus of this story tight will be kind of a problem, so it's very important for me to have a strict outline before I start. Normally I like to give myself more room to run, but I think that'll do me more harm than good here. I've got my "historical" outline finished and am now working on the "dramatic" version.
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