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Misspegasister28's avatar

Tips on Writing Historical Fiction?

Asked by Misspegasister28 (2098points) June 9th, 2016

Does anyone have any tips of writing historical fiction? I want to write a historical fiction novel, and I need some tips. How much is too little research? How much is too much? What are some good historical websites? Should I visit the area where it actually happened? Thanks!

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11 Answers

Seek's avatar

I don’t think there’s any such thing as too much research.

For me, historical fiction is made in the details, the little things people living in that time would take for granted. If a person chooses to write about early 14th century England and references tight-fitting bodices, they’ve lost me. If their Vikings are unclean savages in drab clothing with horned helmets, that book gets a big “nope” from me.

zenvelo's avatar

You need to research very closely the events in your setting, so that your story would be a plausible “side story” to known history.

For instance, If you’re going to write about a midshipman on one of Sir Francis’ Drake’s voyages, you had netter know where he went and what his routes were and any engagements with Spanish vessels.

It will do you no good if you write about something in 17th century Europe without the characters being involved in some way or another with the religious battles going on.

Mimishu1995's avatar

There is no such thing as too much research, but there is such thing as too drawn into research. If you are not careful, you are likely to face the dilemma of spending time researching instead of actually writing anything. Also, if you don’t have a solid plan for your story, you won’t know how to limit your research because there are too many things to learn! I suggest that you choose an exact period for your story, then get the basic knowledge of what the time period looked like. After that go work on the outline of the story, and research as you go (research on certain events in your story to check the possibility of something happening, ect…) It will give you better control on your work.

Magical_Muggle's avatar

Yup, no such thing as too much research, I would recommend compiling a scrap book of ideas and facts, maybe images of what the area looked like, the fashion, the news and current affairs. Even the tiny detail of popular names helps. Also, look into how people acted back then, you don’t want someone prancing around all punk-rocker like in the 16th century.
Hope this was a scrap of help, one keen writer to the next :)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Two things help a lot:

1) a love of research
2) a passion for the era for which you are writing.

I have a friend in LA who makes a decent living writing Chinese historical fiction. She was born and raised in the PRC and left when she was twenty to arrive at UCLA to finish her post graduate work. She has embraced American culture like nobody I’ve ever met. But she is in love with the MIng and Qing periods of her country’s history and culture. She is quite the go-to expert for these periods. She knows the dress, the events, even what daily life was like for a peasant or noble female. Although she knows the reality of it, she sees much romance in it all. And she sells that romance. This comes from an adolescent life spent immersed under the Mao Zedong regime.

rojo's avatar

I like @Seek, she makes my life easier by stating my opinion thus saving me the time of having to write a response. Thank you dear

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Make sure to use original documents and eye witness reports. The internet is not not always accurate.
I went to a presentation of George and Martha Washington, the presenter used wills. birth certificates, deeds and original maps. He went to research in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and crossed the Potomac River on a cold Christmas night in a small row boat.

ibstubro's avatar

It depends on what kind of historical fiction you’re writing, and how much the history factors in to the fiction.

Many stress the importance of accuracy in historical fiction. Others think too many historical details sink the story. Still more believe it isn’t possible to achieve total historical accuracy in storytelling. Almost all agree that the author’s choices should be explained in an author’s note. The degree of emphasis an author places on fact versus fictionalization might be considered a matter of writing style.

Personally, I find the fiction of Gore Vidal disconcerting, in that he makes up scenarios and conversation using people who actually lived. To me it’s sort of “historical pollution”, but he clearly states his methodology in his books.
(I only read one of Vidal’s books based on American History.)

Seek's avatar

You’re welcome, love.

Seek's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus – Please PLEASE share the author’s name with me, via PM if you prefer. I’d love to read one of her books.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seek: Her name is Fei Fei Wang () and she writes from LA for the world-wide Chinese market, in Mandarin, I believe. She has yet to get a publisher interested in English versions of her books, although she is well connected by now. She is also offering scripts to Hollywood, but it is obvious that she has very little patience with thier executive crowd and their tastes. It’s only a matter of time, though. She’s a main contributor on Quora. She is one hell of an interesting, knowlegeable, often irrascible person. I think you would like her.

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