Thursday, September 8, 2011

Writing Historical Fiction

Here are a few things I've discovered as I've waded through the process of writing historical fiction:

1. You must love reading and research. Looking into big fat biographies, autobiographies, and history books in a library. While the Internet and Goggle are marvelous tools, they have their limitations and cannot supersede the research you do in those bastions of bookdom. You must like snooping around in museums, State Historical Archives, and used book stores.

2. You have to like detail. Suppose you're writing a book about, let's say China during the reign of Mao Tse-tung. Of course, you have to dig into the basic history of the time period, but you must also know what the people ate, how they dressed, their mode of transportation, their cultural heritage, their religious traditions and celebrations, the art work they admired, and their feelings about their government and the world.

3. You must be able to organize your research. File folders and file boxes will become your best friends. Little notes scratched on bits of paper just won't do. If you take a quote from a book, it must be written on a full piece of paper with all the pertinent data concerning the resource, and placed in a file folder under the appropriate heading.

4. You have to be prepared for frustration as you try to weave the wealth of your newly acquired knowledge into the fictional story without being heavy handed. (No reader likes two pages of dry data)

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Historical fiction is a wonderful genre, and is both a pain and a joy to write. If done well, it can offer history to the reader in an exciting and involving way.

1 comment:

Lynn Gardner said...

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres - mystery/suspense being the other. And you do it so well! Can't wait to get my hands on your China book!!