Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Twice in a Blue Moon

Photo by Gregory H. Revera
It seems something no one would know or care about, a writer making sure the moon behaves correctly in their stories. But as anyone who has ever tried to write a novel will tell you, it's very easy to give every nighttime scene a gloriously moonlit landscape for the sake of literary convenience. But if one scene takes place roughly a fortnight after the other, there can't be a full moon on both occasions - it simply isn't possible.

So knowing the moon phases lends internal logic to your story, maintains a sense of verisimilitude, and allows you to write confidently, sure that you can't trip yourself up by having a last quarter moon straight after a new moon.

But if you're writing historical fiction - as I am - how on earth can you be certain when the moon phases took place five or more hundred years ago?

Well, believe it or not, there are online resources you can use to discover what the moon was doing at any particular time, going back for the past six thousand years!

Here's the site, NASA Moon Phases, and here are the moon phases for every date in the Tudor century, 1501 - 1600.

So if I know a date in one of my Tudor novels, or even just have a rough idea when something happened, I can check for certain whether the moon was full or dark on that night.

Many thanks to fellow YA writer Pam Bachorz for sharing this useful resource on Twitter.


  1. I have a similar problem with days of the week, was the 3rd of February 1914 really a Tuesday? Why, yes it was...
    A handy reminder, Victoria, that sometimes it's the simple things that trip us up!


Many thanks for visiting my website and commenting! Victoria.