Writing historical fiction can be both a difficult and rewarding experience for an author. It can require a fair if not a great amount of research and attention to detail, but it also leads to fascinating new information and it can be the gateway to educating readers in both an informative and highly entertaining format. Many a reader has become a student of history as the result of a historical novel. But the writer must get the details right in order for the historical experience to work.
Creating a realistic historical atmosphere requires Elopement Packages doing research into the time period and the historical characters involved. At the same time, the author must be careful not to let the details get in the way of telling a good story. Research and historical details should not be the novel’s focus; instead, a convincing plot and realistic characters are the primary requirement. The historical details then can serve to create a believable atmosphere, and historical events can be used to motivate the main character toward decisions such as to fight in the war or to elope with her lover. History then serves as both an impetus to the characters’ growth and a stimulus to the plot.
Paying Attention to Detail
While the characters and story should be the focus over the details when writing historical fiction, nevertheless, authors must pay attention to the details to make the story realistic and not to introduce any anachronisms. The writer must question everything for its historical detail before mentioning it in the novel. Following is a short list of some details that demand focus:
· Flora and Fauna: If you live in Wisconsin but your novel is set in California, be careful when you mention trees or plants-some of the plants you are familiar with might not grow in California. That alone is really a geographic detail, but the same is true with historical plant life. A plant growing in Wisconsin in 2012 might not have existed there in 1848. Many historical inaccuracies are introduced into novels simply based on assumptions we might have. For example, the Irish are famous for eating potatoes, but a medieval novel set in Ireland would not have characters who eat potatoes because the potato came from North America and wasn’t introduced to Europeans until the late sixteenth century by the Spanish. Flowers are also an issue. Most of the flowers we grow in our North American gardens today were brought here from Europe, Africa, or South America so research the flower’s history. In the colonial period in America, they might not yet have had marigolds, geraniums, or petunias. And don’t assume the Dutch had tulips in the Middle Ages-the tulip is really an import from Turkey and made its way to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century.
· Food & Drink: When people had parties in the 1940s, did they bring six-packs of beer? I don’t think so. The six-pack plastic ring holder wasn’t introduced until 1960 by a well-known soda maker. How about baking a cake? Could you go buy a cake mix package at the grocery store in the 1940s? You could, but they weren’t common until General Mills introduced the first one in 1947 where you could add water to the mix.
· Inventions: If you’re a fairly young novelist (age thirty or under), you might not remember a world before television, computers, or cell phones, and even if you do, your memory might be faulty. Be careful with modern technology and even older home appliances. Don’t assume because the automobile was invented circa 1900 that your characters would have owned one in 1910 if they were farmers. How about a flush toilet? It would depend on location and income. While a character might have a portable phone in the 1980s, it certainly wasn’t a cell phone, much less a Smartphone. And even with landlines, until well into the 1960s, people didn’t have seven digit phone numbers and had to call the operator for a connection.
· Dates and Time: Attention to detail even includes dates. Do you know what day of the week was July 4, 1776? It was a Thursday. Did it snow in Boston on March 3, 1888? If it matters to your story, you might want to consult the weather report from an old newspaper of the time. Would Theodore Roosevelt have looked at his wrist-watch? Most people “in the know” will tell you the wristwatch was invented during World War I and didn’t become popular until the 1920s. But even that is a generalization with room for error. There were pocket watch holders prior to World War I that allowed a pocket watch to be worn like a wristwatch. Do a little research and you might find a quote from Roosevelt about wearing a wristwatch.