Run with the Tale: How to Write Engrossing Historical Fiction? – Historical fiction is incredibly fun to write and always has the potential to produce outstanding tales. If there is a period of history you’re fascinated with and want to write about – go with it! You’re sure to come up with intriguing ideas that really encapsulate the time.
The best historical fiction always has a few important details, though, so remember these top pieces of advice for when you’re creating the next War and Peace or The Other Boleyn Girl.
1. Start where it’s rich
“The history of mankind is full of obvious turning points and significant events” – Fela Kuti.
Everywhere you look throughout history there was something crazy happening, and you should always look for a significant event that coincides with your chosen period to start your story.
Take, for example, Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914. The title is enough to tell you that the story begins at a dramatic period of history, and the reader isn’t wrong for assuming it.
2. Try and put yourself in your characters’ shoes
Obviously, there is a good chance you didn’t exist in the period you are writing about. But that’s what historical fiction is all about: taking you and your reader to a place they didn’t see with their own eyes but can easily get the feel of what it would have been like existing at that time!
Your characters, locations, narrative and themes are all there to take your reader on a journey to a time and place that they, like you, are fascinated about. It’s a good idea to try and put yourself in your characters’ shoes. You can’t actually experience their challenges, but you can try and give yourself a feel of what it was like for them at that time.
This will go a long way to giving you a sense of character development within the novel’s scheme that is intrinsic to writing a winning historical fiction novel.
3. It’s good to know your period in detail
If you have ever tried writing a historical fiction novel in a period you don’t really know too much about then you will soon find yourself generalising. This can work if you have a really awesome, unique concept, but historical fiction novels typically have a developed understanding of the period they are set within.
And, hey, one of the best ways you can research your topic (apart from the net!) is to head to your local library – they will likely have at least one or two books on the period you are writing about.
4. Understand the setting’s geography
Okay, this can be difficult if, say, you’re an Australian writing a historical fiction novel about France, but if you have the opportunity to visit your locations then don’t pass on it! It will give you a sense of what the place was like even in that period and this can be of great inspiration.
5. Know your ending
You should always have a clear cut idea of how your historical fiction novel will end and, importantly, how it will tie into the drama of the time. You don’t want your story to deviate from the historical aspect and become cut off from it – this will become off-putting for readers who set out to enjoy the narrative within the historical setting!
Enjoy the process!
Writing historical fiction, for those who are interested in history, is a lot of fun. Sure, the process can be challenging, with plenty of research and development to rack your brains with and sacrifice the lifestyle you have, but it’s all part of the enjoyment of writing the novel – and all writing should be enjoyable.
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