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Author Insights on Historical Fiction

What do well-known authors of historic fiction need to say concerning the style? Let’s take a look at a number of.

Some time in the past, I interviewed Edward Rutherfurd, creator of novels comparable to Paris, London, and most lately China, who outlined his guidelines for writing historic fiction:

  • Don’t invent historical past – you possibly can add characters and incidents so long as they slot in with recognized historic occasions. It is fiction, in any case.
  • Try to be truthful – there may be at all times multiple facet to historical past.
  • You can go away doubt about what occurred – historical past is stuffed with uncertainties.
  • Keep the chronology as correct as attainable – in different phrases, don’t mess with the timeline.
  • You can go away issues out – an excessive amount of element slows the tempo.
  • Complete historic reality is unknowable.

Susan Vreeland, creator of novels like Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Luncheon of the Boating Party, supplied quite a lot of insights in a 2015 put up.

  • “There are two types of historical fiction which form a continuum. At one end is the novel devoted to a specific historical event or historical person … at the other end is the more personal, domestic, narrowly focused story which happens to be set in the past.”
  • Decide on a premise and themes. “The sooner one is conscious of the themes, character questions and moral questions … the easier and more naturally the work will take a conscious form rather than grow haphazardly.”
  • For biographical fiction, choose “only those events and aspects of a figure’s life which contribute to the established or decided themes and focus, and eliminate those which don’t.”
  • As for analysis … you’ll want to analysis extensively, “not only for the sweep of history, but for scenic truth and time period accuracy.” Vreeland goes on to say, that “at times, one must hold one’s ground, and resist the tyranny of fact for the greater good of the narrative, if doing so does not measurably alter history.”

Bruce Holsinger, creator of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, provides his insights:

  • “Plausibility, of course, is the truest measure of historical fiction, which must invent innumerable scenarios and snippets of dialogue for which there is no evidence in the historical record.”
  • “Suspend disbelief and skepticism about the possible limits of historical knowledge in order to imagine and inhabit a world … you will constantly be treading that fine line between the true and the plausible.”

A fast quote from Emma Darwin, creator of A Secret Alchemy and Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, says: “Your readers want to live and breathe history, but they won’t keep reading if the narrative grinds to a halt on a hill of historical detail.”

And lastly, Harry Bingham, creator of The Sons of Adam and The Lieutenant’s Lover, recommends utilizing an “evocative vocabulary” … “Don’t tell us your character ate a ‘simple dinner’. Tell us that he ate a ‘thin turnip soup’ or ‘rye bread with the first rust-coloured tints of mould.’”

Which of those resonate for you? And what recommendation would you add to the combo?


M.Ok. Tod writes historic fiction. Her newest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a twin timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s different novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED can be found from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She could be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her web site

The put up Author Insights on Historical Fiction appeared first on A Writer of History.


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