Saturday, April 10, 2010

Writing Historical Fiction

This session began with an important point about writing historical fiction: We do NOT need a Ph.D. in the time period; rather, we DO need to research effectively and internalize the research to create lifelike characters who are true to their time period.

Elements that Make for Strong Historical Fiction:
1. A main character with a distinctive voice--it needs to be there from the very beginning
2. Strong plot with memorable scenes
3. Time period details
4. An intriguing setting
5. Accurate and in-depth research

Researching the historical period:
Do as much research as your can even before you begin writing. Interview experts on the time period and people who lived during the period. Find out about day to day aspects for life--household items, transportation, food.

Write characters who are true to the period:
Be careful not to judge the characters of that time. They are products of the period and will have different beliefs and values than we have. Give attention to relationships and secondary characters.

Establish your plot:
Have a beginning, middle, and end, and climax in the middle. The character should grow from beginning to end.

Period Language:
Strike a balance. Don't tell the whole story in period language. Perhaps include it in some dialogue. Use sparingly.

Memorable Moments:
Avoid too much back story, especially not at the beginning. Find a way to seamlessly integrate it throughout the story. You can't include all your research. Internalize your research, but then choose only those details that add texture to your story.

The session ended with a discussion of a few excerpts from published historical fiction novels, including Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson; Ashes of Roses by MJ Auch; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; Once by Morris Gleitzman; Soldier's Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Sheila Solomon Klaus; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Red Tent by Anita Diamant; and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. We discussed the merits of each of the excerpts and how each writer works within the constraints of historical fiction. These are great models of historical fiction and, frankly, just great reads. Check them out!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thanks so much for this post! I love historical fiction and I hope to write some in the Greek/Roman times, but right now, I'm busy with another story. I bookmarked this to refer to, thanks!


Thanks so much for reading our blog, and we really appreciate you taking the time to comment! We read every one, and we try to respond to all of them via email/comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...