Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
I’m pleased to welcome Marcia Richards to WUVC as part of the Literary Genres Blog Series. Today she’ll be giving us a lesson about the Historical Fiction genre and why there’s more to it than something you’d learn in history class.
When someone mentions historical fiction to a reader, their first reaction is often, “That boring stuff isn’t for me.”
It has slipped from it’s light grip on popularity steadily over the last few decades, while the mystery/thriller/suspense and romance categories’ popularity exploded. Good news! Historical fiction sales are now on the rise. And why not? Historical fiction has it all.
How is that possible, you say? I’ll begin at the beginning.
Writing historical fiction
The expression ‘historical fiction’ sounds as though it’s a contradiction in terms. History is a factual account of the past and fiction is a story created from a writer’s imagination. So this genre is a blend of the two. It may seem as though writing about an authentic time period, place or person would limit your creativity in such a story.
“Just the facts, Ma’am.” said Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday. Well that’s just not the case.
A writer chooses a time period that grabs at their attention. There may be specific historical events or an historical figure within that time period that intrigues the writer. The writer may also have a penchant for mystery or romance, and that will become part of the story as well. No writer ever chooses historical fiction because they think it’s easy to write.
The creative mind will peruse the landscape of the chosen location and will imagine it more dreary or more beautiful; war torn or blessed with bright sun and verdant hills. Delve into the factual background of a person of history and then embellish his life with fictional characters or events. Or choose an event like the Crusades, a world war or famine to provide your characters with endless scenarios. These are the artistic playthings of an historical fiction writer.
Authentic people, places and time periods should remain true to history, but that leaves much room for your imagination to play – creating a fictional event in the life of an authentic person of history or creating a fictional character embroiled in a true historical conflict.
For example, Christine Blevins’ The Turning of Anne Merrick, just out this month and on my TBR list, is “a tale of love and espionage”. A young woman deeply involved in the Revolutionary War finds love with a man who shares her Patriot cause. In this book, the battles and military figures are authentic. Anne Merrick, her love interest and their story is fictional.
Imagine this…a story in the voice of Joan of Arc’s dearest childhood friend, Thomas, who is with her when Joan sees the visions of saints in her father’s field and knows Joan’s destiny. Maybe at 16, Thomas and Joan fall in love before she goes off to ride with the French army. Does Thomas follow her into battle? Does he stay behind and not see her again until the day she’s to be burned at the stake? Does he try to save her or is he prevented from getting too close? Creating a fictional character like Thomas in the life of an actual person of history is one way to write historical fiction.
The writer will choose to what extent the place and time period impact the story or whether those elements are the focus of the story. If the setting and time period act only as a backdrop to the characters, slightly less research may be needed than a story such as Blevin’s where the setting and time period are a major force.
However deeply a writer delves into historical research, it’s important to remember that having a 1920s burlesque dancer receive a call on her cell phone just wouldn’t fit. Manner of speech, dress, work, and personal behaviors need to be authentic for the time period, so as not to take the reader out of the story when she realizes you haven’t done your homework.
Historical fiction brings the particular time period to life for the reader, (unlike the boring history books we read in high school, memorizing dates of wars and names of military officers) and leaves the reader feeling as if she learned something about that person or era while she was falling in love with the characters.
Like most other genres of fiction, historical fiction is a versatile medium. The sub-genres include:
- Middle Ages
- Early humans and prehistoric
- Ancient Rome
- Nautical history
- Chinese history
- Historical realism, fantasy, mystery, thriller, crime, science fiction, romance, paranormal
- Alternate or speculative history
- Young adult historical fiction
- Christian historical fiction
- Military historical fiction
- America West historical fiction
There is almost always overlap in categorizing historical writing. For example, the Regency era novels, most often set in England, will include romance, mystery or military elements. The World War II era novels, usually set in Europe or America, will often carry a romantic or a military theme.
With thousands of years of history and as many authentic people and events from which to choose, the writer is limited only by her imagination in creating an entertaining journey back in time. Historical fiction has it all!
Have you written Historical Fiction? What did you love about it? If you haven’t tried it, what’s holding you back?
Marcia Richards is a veteran blogger and author of Marcia Richards’ Blog…Sexy. Smart. From The Heart. Marcia writes about SSS (strong, smart, sexy) women, history, and the path to realizing your dreams. She has a historical trilogy and a collection of short historical stories in progress. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing with the grandkids or her husband, traveling or turning old furniture into works of art. She believes there is always something new to learn and time to play.
See the schedule of the upcoming guest posts and genres, in this post.