I've just finished rewriting some scenes of my clockwork punk novel having written about half of the novel. I found out that far into it that I really don't like the discipline of following history. It's alright that I am writing about a real location within a real time period. But I'm not writing an historical novel.
When we look at reality, including the realities of history or biology, or any study, we are looking into mirrors. This is different from writing what we know. At least that's how I experience it. I discovered that I wanted to use the history I found in order to explore ideas, to investigate my own thinking.
Once I made the decision to base medical procedures in alchemy I fell in love with my story! The romance had truly begun. It's as though the story took off the mask of the properly educated person and revealed its more wanton side. Suddenly, sensuality was everywhere. The fog became caressing and sheltering. Cold became exciting, puckering body parts into pleasurable positions.
After indulging the writing of a few scenes and finding them satisfying, I began to recognize what I was experiencing. Alchemy, in my experience, is a sensual transaction. It requires making a connection with the essence of the world. Mind you, I'm talking about transformational alchemy and not the chemical kind. I have no experience with that. But alchemy, in my world, is what magic is made of, our capacity for the depth of imagination that brings us so deeply within the experience of another that we risk losing ourselves.
Practiced normally, it is a healing practice. In my world--the world of my novel--there are, of course, going to be practitioners of the more malicious kind. It is yet another way of being myself of course, but in a way that no one gets hurt.