Writing Visionary Fiction Within an Historical Setting

Guest Post by author Leonide Martin

Authors of Visionary Fiction encounter a special challenge when their stories take place in historical settings.  Each historic period shapes its cultures through a combination of forces, from evolution to technology and climate.  Within cultures, the unique chronicle of events, resources, worldview, and spirituality become defining forces. When cultures interact, these forces are even more complex.  Those of us who engage with historical fiction are usually driven by a passion for the culture and time period, and we want to keep our stories authentic.  We often have characters who are actual historic persons, and must learn what we can about their personalities, goals, and actions.  Inferring their underlying motives and passions may be difficult, depending on how much written information is available.

How does an author enter the world of ancient cultures?  We can use imagination to recreate how life might have been in historic Greece, Egypt or Britain drawing from research and literature.  While documents are essential, often there are information gaps.  Authors face missing links about events or cultural practices, especially personal facts about historical people and the others who surrounded them.  It can be a real challenge to gather information about an historical person’s emotions and intentions.  We can draw inferences from documentation in historical sources about what they did – but is that enough to craft a story and flesh out a personality?

To me, historical documents and records, and the inferences authors can draw from them, are not sufficient.  This is where the visionary process comes in.  We can use our psychic abilities to envision and enter distant worlds and unfamiliar societies.  Some call this time traveling, or undertaking a shamanic journey.  In the author’s inner experience, she or he actually visits a far-away time and place.

L. Martin 2 Much direction for my own writing comes from these psychic practices.  As a long-time meditator trained in eastern mystical traditions, I enter meditative states to    gain insight and inspiration.  As times I receive communications from spirit guides that provide key scenes or profound understandings.  When writing my first Maya  novel, Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun, I called upon an ancient Mayan priestess who appeared as a spirit guide to teach me their cosmology and spirituality.  One time  I needed a ceremonial scene in which my protagonist, also a Mayan priestess, sought prophetic visions and journeyed far into space for the cosmic view.  In  meditation, I sent this request to my guide and she unfolded an entire scene to my inner sight.  It was perfect!  With very little modification I used it in my story.

For my second Maya novel, The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque, I needed a number of scenes involving Underworld journeys and encounters with Death L. Martin  1Lords.  To get a direct experience of this, I used a shamanic journey process set to rapid drumming.  To link my journey to the Mayan Underworld, I used imagery from sources I’d studied, where the vision-seeker enters a cave that descends to the Underworld, finds the roots of a sacred ceiba tree and follows the roots into the depths of Xibalba (Mayan term for Underworld).  An animal uay – spirit guide is always involved when one is taken to the Underworld.  Mine is a red-eyed lizard or snake.  I recall one such session where I had an especially powerful and dramatic encounter with the Death Lords, deep in a watery cavern with dripping stalactites and bats.  I used it almost verbatim in my novel.

How does this differ from imagination?  To me it’s the “image in action” when one is acting within the alternate reality.  I’m not simply letting my mind speculate and dream up another world-time-culture.  I’m actually there, participating in the events.  For those moments, this scenario is my reality.  Of course, I must write down all the details once I come out of the trance state, or else they slip away.

Visionary Fiction in historic settings is written by authors who themselves are visionaries.  We must “be there” to write fully and authentically about ancient worlds and different realities.  Our mission is to re-create these the best we can in our fiction, to bring their timeless wisdom, lofty principles, and advanced societies to our readers.  We hope to inspire a higher vision of human potential, one that motivates people to reach outward, to fully develop and express, their own higher selves.

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Biography: 

Leonide Martin  Leonide Martin, DrPH, is a retired university professor, published many professional books and received a Writers’ Digest award for short fiction.  She     writes historical fiction about the Maya after years as a Maya researcher, living in Yucatan, Mexico and studying with elders and shamans.  Taking         apprenticeship, she became a Maya Fire Woman and Solar Initiate in the Itza tradition.  Her trips to Maya sites, participation in rituals and  archeological study bring factual accuracy to her writing, which blends scientific views with those of indigenous Mayas.  Captivated by their unique    arts, mysticism and cosmology, her writing about ancient Maya civilization brings the culture and people vividly to life.

 

www.mistsofpalenque.com

http://leonidemartinblog.wordpress.com

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   The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque    

 

 

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   Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun: A Novel of Maya Wisdom and the 2012 Shift of Consciousness

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9 Responses to Writing Visionary Fiction Within an Historical Setting

  1. Lennie, Your intuition, creative process, mysticism, and keen intellect all shine through your perspective on your post. thank you! You’ve inspired me to turn to my visions again in my current historical visionary fiction novel. 🙂

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  2. Hello Leonide. As a visionary fiction writer, I'm always trying to pinpoint what sets visionary fiction apart from other genres. Your post is another clarification, a getting closer to a VF definition, especially when you say, "Our mission is to re-create these (ancient worlds and different realities) the best we can in our fiction, to bring their timeless wisdom, lofty principles, and advanced societies to our readers. We hope to inspire a higher vision of human potential, one that motivates people to reach outward, to fully develop and express, their own higher selves." Thank you.

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  3. Admin - Eleni says:

    Hi Leonide:

    I agree that drawing on the historical record isn’t enough. You mention your using psychic abilities to envision other worlds. That is a large part of my writing process. I view stories as a gift given from a divine, undefinable, force. Stories come effortlessly when I surrender to this all encompassing presence. Admitting this out of the VF community would lead to either eyes rolling or thoughts of putting me in a straight jacket. Nevertheless, I have noticed a significant difference in my writing, before and after my surrender to the creative stream that is a gift for all of us to tap into. I don’t have to define what it means to enjoy every sublime moment that I'm connected.

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    • So true, Eleni! Its a real challenge to answer when people ask "how do you get ideas for your stories, or what brought you to writing about your topic/setting?" That's why having a Visionary Fiction community is so important.

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      • Admin - Eleni says:

        They either come to me in dreams, or through a connection I make, either through reading or talking with someone. As the story develops, images and scenes play through my mind like a movie. Sometimes they'll even throw me off course, and I'll have to restructure my outline. I love when that happens. There's never a dull moment when you're tapped in!

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  4. It is a continual process, to understand the depth that Visionary Fiction can offer. Appreciate your thoughts about our mission.

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  5. Thanks for your incisive post, Leonide. As one who also writes historical VF, one with a focus on reincarnation, which usually requires I research more than a single historical period (double the work, double the fun), I've spent considerable time musing about where my stuff comes from. I read enormous amounts of history and travel extensively to visit the sites I figure I'll write about, but there comes a point where all that research gets mixed up inside and comes out in unexpected forms.

    A messy process that I bolster with spreadsheets, timelines, and lots of outlining (praise be for Outline mode in Word) before I allow myself to start writing text–a habit I adopted when my novel The Anathemas swelled to 400K words when I just let it rip, and then it took years to whittle that down to a mere 135K, which still makes readers groan.

    Your form of deep dive sounds much neater and, as a fellow meditator, makes sense. Am thinking I'll test some of your techniques to take some pounds and years off my composition process. Wish me luck. It may be a guy thing, but I don't find it easy to let myself go with the imagination. I usually blow the mood by becoming overly enamored with the process itself, and, as we know, it's tough to play and coach at the same time.

    I certainly hope to see more of your work here on the VFA site and would be interested in your experienced opinion as we go through the process of defining Visionary Fiction to make our brand known to the reading public.

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    • Appreciate your thoughtful comments. I'm also an outliner, but do it in broad strokes to give a sense of the story trajectory. Then things start happening and characters take off and the outline morphs into its own expression. I do wish you luck in trying out meditation techniques to access both data and experiences. It can be so immediate and vivid. Flowing with the process is really necessary, for as you note, you can't coach it and be inside what's happening at the same time.
      Leonide

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      • I agree about characters having a mind of their own, some quite stubborn, who remain mere caricatures until you let them have their way. Have learned to go with that flow, even when they take me places I don't want to go–part of the adventure. Same for the outline; why Word's Outline feature is such a creative tool. Simply drag and drop to rearrange chapter orders, or raise or lower level to revise priority.

        Will set aside time to consciously used meditation techniques in my writing. I get the idea, just need to experiment.
        Thanks much.
        Vic

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