How’d they do that?

One of the delights of reading historical fiction is learning just how it was to live in another time. Of course, knowing how it was to live in another time is the challenge for the writer of historical fiction.

This week I’ve been puzzling over how to drive a 1916 Ford Model T. A character in the novel I’m writing buys a used Model T. Another character – a person who has only seen cars from afar¬† – decides to take the car for a drive.

As I sat there staring at my computer screen, fingers poised over the keyboard, absolutely nothing came out. How could I write about starting and driving a car when I had absolutely no idea how it was actually done. Presuming it was something like today’s cars doesn’t cut it. It’s at moments like this that I envy writers who have a staff of research assistants.

As it turns out, this post could also be titled, “I LOVE Google.”¬† Not expecting much, I typed in ‘how to drive a Model T.’ To my everlasting delight, the search yielded a host of YouTube videos explaining the process, chapter and verse. The most useful video was created by the Henry Ford Estate. The narrator even wore one of the classic driving coats to lend authenticity.

The videos were very helpful. Helpful enough to get my creative juices flowing and my fingers flying. I’m happy. But not so happy as I might be if I could actually drive a Model T myself. Then I’d know not only how it works, but also how it feels and sounds. Then I’d be sure.

I’ve told Santa this is what I want for Christmas. I hope he comes through.