History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

17 August 2010

Absolutely Modern Mysteries – Or Are They Old?

“It is at the movies that the only absolutely modern mystery is celebrated.”
- André Breton, 1896-1966

Okay, I admit I love to do research. In fact, one of the biggest problems for me is always figuring out when to stop the research and start writing the book. While it’s always lovely to delve into volumes of delicious text about days gone by and ogle fabulous drawings and paintings of those intriguing people and their times, today I’d like to talk about a little more modern way of investigating their worlds – the movies. Or, to be more precise, places like YouTube where historic aficionados like ourselves can upload snippets from movies and videos with all sorts of fascinating information.

I truly enjoy hunting for images that I can’t find between the pages of a book, like how skirts whisk across the floor during a fast dance or the way people extend greetings differently, simply because their clothing is cut differently. Here are two videos, one from a Jane Austen evening in Pasadena, California (I’ve attended one of these gatherings…) and another of a nineteenth century two step at the Library of Congress.

Here’s that nineteenth century dance…

Or there’s the so-called “purely educational” but actually highly dramatic like this footage of a blacksmith at his forge. Honestly, I could study this for hours and get ideas for many different periods of history – or fantasy!

I adore these little children being absolutely natural in their Civil War-era clothing. The balance between skirt, pantalets, and shoes is so perfect on that little girl that it just blows every drawing out of the water for me.

Of course, there’s always the purely promotional, like book trailers. But some are delicious entertainment, such as this fan video for JANE EYRE.

Finally, where else can I safely find out about historic guns? For some reason, every guy wants to show off his weapon on YouTube the minute he obtains anything with a pedigree. Or even better, goes off to a reenactment. (Yes, I do love to attend reenactments! But YouTube is available 24x7 from the comfort of my own home. Honestly, I’d never manage to write as many westerns from the East Coast without it.)

Here’s a clip from the 2010 reenactment of Waterloo.

Anyone else ever visit YouTube or other video search sites to do research? What delightful snippets or search hints have you come up with?

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Blogger Isobel Carr said...

You know, I never have, but I'm certainly going to do so in the future (I'm more apt to be there watching the talking, psychic cat over and over and over: Mouse, mouse . . . treat).

7:37 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

This is a great idea, and new to me as well. Mostly I just rent my favorite childhood period movies (1954 BEAU BRUMMELL in particular) and try to find the thrilled inner child who gazes awestruck at them.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Isobel - I can NOT believe you've never followed reenactors on YouTube! There's fabulous stuff out there - cooking, clothing, housing, guns - the list goes on and on and on...

Pam - You can also find snippets from favorite movies on YouTube. One favorite is from a lady who adores ball scenes from period movies and put together a six minute homage. It's now bookmarked as Writerly Inspiration.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I have trouble even keeping up with all reenactors I know on Live Journal. So many projects!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

You've got to expand your horizons, Isobel!

Plus, there's music, too - everything from ancient to modern, in every setting you can imagine. Here's a Colonial American lament performed in a baroque Spanish church.


3:37 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Great post, Diane! I haven't gone to Youtube for research either, though I frequently watch period movies/tv series for inspiration.

1:19 AM  

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