I’m in the process of approving copyedits for the second book in the Benedict Hall series, Hall of Secrets. My quite fabulous copyeditor questioned my use of the Levy Tube, which was the first swivel lipstick, copyrighted in 1915. Her concern was that she didn’t recognize it, which is easily addressed; it’s real, and discoverable. It brought up my own concern, however, about excessive detail.
There’s no easy answer here. The rule of thumb in writing historical fiction is that if the story doesn’t need the detail, it should be omitted. Those of us who do hours of research, though, find it difficult to omit something that fascinates us, and that we think–and hope–may fascinate readers, too. I even found a photograph of a Levy Tube, with lipstick still in it! It’s all but irresistible to me. (Not that I’d want to try that lipstick–brrrrr, that stuff is old.)
We’ve all read the books that feel like a list of historical facts, and it’s irritating. There should be a balance, of course. It’s just tricky finding that tipping point! Especially in recent-era historical fiction, when we know so much about the period, it’s a delicate process to winnow out what’s necessary and interesting from what is excessive. I may have to go back and say farewell to the Levy Tube.
July 6, 2013 Saturday at 10:36 am