A few days ago, I was trying to figure out what a butler from the 1920’s would do, how he would comport himself, and what he would be responsible for. Before I had a reliable internet, when I was still living with my mother, forever ago, I would have reread a bunch of Jeeves and Wooster stories. I mean, isn’t Jeeves just perfect? Don’t get anal and tell me he’s a valet. I know that, but in my story my version of him has got to be a butler. I had such a crush on him when I read those novels and stories– and while Stephen Fry is The Ultimate Jeeves, I have to admit the crush didn’t extend to him. I saw a more stoically chinned Jeeves in my imagination and gave him such a handsome imaginary visage.
And so that is kind of what I’m trying to write now– a stoically chinned, utterly crushable Jeeves. No small feat! It is very hard to make him imperfect in such a way that it does not seem like I just smeared some mud on his cheeks for show. I think it’s working, though. Let’s hope.
What I was getting at though, was how my methods have changed. Yes, I still whipped out my Jeeves and Wooster. There is no excuse to go too long without reading that stuff, anyway. P. G. Wodehouse does wonders for dialogue by osmosis– just like Jane Austen and Agatha Christie do wonders for plotting. Why is that? And for detail? Eco, always Eco.
This time, because I am no longer living in the 1900 House, I used the InterWeb. Wait, what’s it called? But seriously, Google is a wonderful thing. Can anything really replace my mom’s 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (Oh! It’s available online! There goes my argument. No, I’m choosing to ignore it. Encyclopedias should smell like paper.)? Of course not. But in some cases, the internet really is better. After all, that encyclopedia was written in 1911 and my story’s taking place in the 1920s– post WWI, which had to have changed things enough to make a difference in my writing. Maybe not if he was a secondary character, in the background. But he’s a primary and I can’t fudge as much with him.
Through Google, I found this site, which I am now in love with and is amazeballs. And it allows me to kill two birds with one stone, because now I have a better idea of how to have my other primary character react to the buttling one. Here we come, Jeeves 2.0, here we come.
Another thing that is helpful for random details is this site. I watched a lengthy Sonja Henie video which would have been really helpful had my story taken place in the middle of winter. On a frozen lake. But still! It was chock full of random details, which is what I’m always on the hunt for. Also, there’s music, and advertisements. It is really quite helpful. If you can’t park yourself at a library, computers are (I begrudgingly admit, because I’m kind of a Luddite (and I see the irony of me blogging about it)) handy indeed.
My very favorite resources are still books, though. Because if I don’t pay the PG&E bill, or the phone bill, or the internet is on the fritz– as it is wont to do in our neighborhood, despite practically living across the street from a school, which I’m pretty sure has to have a decent connection– then the internet as a resource is completely inaccessible. Also, our computer is old and the drive is stuck together with loquat jam from a year ago. [But really. What else can you do with loquats? Maybe a chutney? If in my later years I become an international superspy, loquat jam will be my secret weapon. It can foil intricate technology with a simple splat.] With a book, I just crack it open. And read it by candlelight. In the stifling heat. But you know what? I grew up in the 1900 House, so I can hack it.
While I am writing, I am listening to this, which is really incongruous considering what I am writing about. When does Grandaddy (I mean Admiral Radley! Ahem! Sorry.) not fit as a soundtrack to life? Never! But there you go. I am a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Not.
And have I shared this before? Because it is a.m.a.z.e.b.a.l.l.s.