Seeing in the Dark

Audrey Driscoll has provided a helpful tutorial on when various illumination sources were invented and the limitations of each source. A helpful tutorial for writers that have the need to use such information in their writings.

Audrey Driscoll's Blog

The characters in my novels and stories frequently roam around in the dark, often on some sort of nefarious business. Writing those scenes can be tough. If I want a character to see something important, I have to furnish a plausible light source. In fiction set in the present day, there are reliable flashlights and the mobile phone’s flashlight feature. Imminent battery death can supply a bit of tension to the scene.

But what about earlier eras? Much of my writing is set in the past, specifically the early to mid 20th century. I’ve spent a good deal of time checking whether a specific light source existed at a particular time. When did electric torches (otherwise known as flashlights) come into common use? Eighteen ninety-six. What about car headlights? The earliest ones were carbide lamps. Integrated all-electric lights weren’t common until the 1920s.

Sources of Light

Other light sources include…

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6 thoughts on “Seeing in the Dark”

  1. Very interesting post, helpful to writing about lighting and paying attention to historical details. I liked the different types of ambient light that was mentioned, cigarettes and starlight in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was both entertaining and useful. As an aside, here in Jersey (CI) we held some 1,500 German prisoners here in 1916 in a POW camp. Electricity was still rare in the island but this camp, out in the back of beyond, had generated electricity throughout. The islanders were, apparently, very jealous.

    Liked by 1 person

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