Today I feel like giving away some of my tips for writing historical fiction. Note, my views on the matter are subjective. I have always had an interest in history and historical fiction, but I was always hard-pressed to find good pieces of work. Although, to be honest, I have many librarian friends and they have a hard time finding me any book I will like. I am rather picky. Anyways, onward to the main course.
- Historical Fiction does not have to a difficult read. – You can write it in a semi-modern day voice. It also helps the reader who wants to know about the time era and does not want to decipher every word. The author can write in a few era appropriate phrases and such to immerse the reader. But I find some books with a glossary may just want to lean into a more immersive experience.
- History is not boring and your book won’t be either – I sometimes struggle in my own writing, because I worry it’s boring. But I realise that I’ve just been studying Roman History for so long, everything seems boring. Some might tell me about this historical scandal in the 1500’s and I don’t bat an eye. Why? Because I’ve read it all. Almost nothing can shock me. But, your readers aren’t that way! They will be shocked to read about the betrayal or affair of so-and-so ruler, etc. Unless they already know the historical figure the book is about, that is. But it brings me to our next topic.
- Know the historical figures – We all have our own views and interpretations of history. And I am guilty of just writing a historical figure without much thought. Why? Because I didn’t want to stop writing. I was on a roll. However, before OR after writing doing some research is vital, but don’t be afraid to put your own spin on the character to an extent.
- But don’t trust Hollywood – Some movies are most inaccurate when it comes to history. Yes, there needs to be conflict, but movies like Gladiator gets so much wrong and the Robe is NOT an accurate version of Emperor Tiberius. (At all. I was yelling at the TV screen, because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.) So, this goes back to the idea of doing your own research.
- History is horrible and don’t sweep it under the rug – Many historical figures are much worse in real life than in fictional works. Many things happened in history that are unthinkable and as a writer of said history, don’t shy away from the dark. If you are uncomfortable writing something, find another historical time. If it happened in history, don’t remove it from your story because you don’t like it. Know what you’re getting into!
And those are my first 5 tips for writing history. I hope you enjoyed and I hope to post more down the road.
Thanks for reading,