Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't forget your geography when researching

On route to our spring break vacation, hubby made an innocent comment that really got me to thinking. He said, "You know, there's only one natural lake in Texas."

How many of us who write historical romance rely on maps to help us picture the setting? I do. I try hard to look for historical maps and there are a ton out there, but often, those maps don't give me the details I'm looking for. On the other hand, I write a lot of historical western romances, most of which are set in Texas. Being a Texas resident, I assume the topography won't have changed much in 100 - 200 years. And too, being fiction, readers generally assume this as well so if you change the land to reflect what it really looked like back then, readers will sometimes argue with you. Needless, I never gave much thought to researching geography in addition to researching the history. Luckily, I don't think I've made any grave errors in the work I've done so far with regards to the evolving land, but you can rest assured I'll be including geography from now on.

As for the one natural lake in Texas, that would be Caddo Lake. An earthquake and a log jam helped create the 25,000 acre body of water. Not only is it the only natural lake in Texas, but it's the only natural lake in the south. What does this mean to authors creating settings for their historical fictions? Be sure to look at the history of the lake or river you're including in your manuscript. Due to flooding from the Brazos River, state legistlature mandated dams in the 1930s and 40s. These dams created lakes. If you're writing a historical western set along the Brazos River, make sure your characters don't encounter any lakes prior to this time.

Weather plays a part in the changing topography as well. As you know we took a trip to Indianola so I could better visualize my setting. Because of the two hurricanes (the one in 1875 and the one in 1886), the coastline if different than what my characters would have enjoyed. For one, there's less land.


Savannah Chase said...

Thank you for teaching me a cool fact..I recently did a map for a book I am working on. It is a city map, but it was so cool to get the places from the book onto the map....

Ciara Gold said...

You're welcome. It was sorta a "duh" moment for me. I'm just thankful I didn't make any location errors in my first few historical westerns. LOL