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: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

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.

Historical sub-genres

Like most other genres of fiction, historical fiction is a versatile medium. The sub-genres include:

  • Middle Ages
  • Regency
  • 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.

You can also find Marcia on Twitter and Facebook.

See the schedule of the upcoming guest posts and genres, in this post.

21 Thoughts to “Historical fiction has it all – A guest post by Marcia Richards”

  1. Thanks for hosting me today, Nicole! Love being here—it’s so European! 🙂 I hope I can interest others in trying historical fiction for reading and writing.

    1. Thanks so much for the insight Marcia. Sounds like it might be a good idea to start with using a historical setting as a backdrop for a story, then perhaps moving on to a story requiring more research. I know I love reading historical fiction, I’m particularly a fan of Regency. 🙂

  2. Hmm.. historical fiction… I have never given it much thought, honestly. I guess, like you pointed out, how do history and fiction go together?
    It’s like vinegar and oil! They just don’t mix – but people loooove to put vinegar and oil on their hoagies!!
    So maybe I could add a historical romance to my TBR pile… maybe reading out of my genre of choice would do me some good! Great to see you here, Marcia.. 🙂
    Nicole, I discovered your blog not that long ago – glad I did!
    😀

    1. Historical is so fun to read. Thanks for stopping by Darlene. Glad you like it here.:)

      1. Do try it, Darlene! Whether you like stories of royalty or cowboys, war heroes or pirates, you should find something that will sweep you away to another world…much like fantasy and paranormal do.

  3. Em

    I love historical fiction. Phillippa Gregory is a real favourite of mine. I like the idea of taking an event and weaving a story into it. Interesting post….maybe I need to add historical fiction to the ‘to do’ list!

    1. Gregory is at the top of my historical,list and I’ve only read one book! After I finish my current fiction book, I think I will read another of hers.

      1. I think everyone should give it a try, Em! Why not? It’s as much fun as you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be dour and serious like the authors in the old days made it. It can be full of adventure or romance.

  4. I’m not sure why I started writing historical fiction, but I love it – wrapping a story around the framework of actual events and people. I agree with Marcia that it’s the author’s responsibility to make their book as exciting and/or thought-provoking as possible. As for romance, I think it gives readers the opportunity to experience a love story in a way that they may find nostalgic or at least different from the day-to-day of our current lives. Thank you, Nicole and Marcia, for raising the historical fiction flag!

    1. You’re welcome Andrew! We appreciate you coming to visit us! I agree with what you say about the romance. People surely behaved differently in romantic situations depending on what century they lived. It is a lot of fun to write!

  5. I love historical fiction which combines extensive research with a compelling story, like Chains and Forge.

  6. Thanks for coming by. The in-depth research that some authors do for certain time periods or themes like religious history or history on ancient crimes, etc is fascinating. You come away with a new understanding of that era or person involved.

  7. I love historical fiction and read it whenever I have time. I’ve read all of Philippa Gregory’s and another favourite is Sarah Dunant (The Birth of Venus, set in 15C Florence and In the Company of Courtesans in 15C Venice, try them!). I’m waiting for yours, Marcia!

    1. Lol, Patricia…if I could get away from the social media, mine would be done! 🙂 Thanks, for coming over!

  8. Your post is perfect. Of course you know I love historical fiction. I like the ability to teach and learn new historical facts through fiction. It is much more exciting and interesting than a history textbook.

    Like Patricia, I’m waiting to read your novel, Marcia. If you need a beta reader let me know. My debut novel Living Half Free is now available as an ebook. 😀

    1. I do know how much you like historical fiction. 🙂 Congrats on your novel being done and on the market! I’m probably going to have a few short stories out first and then try to finish my novel. It will be awhile. Thanks for the offer to beta for me.

  9. I love historical fiction and don’t read enough of it. One of my favorites is “The Seance,” which sort of jumps between time periods and four main characters. Each one is written in first person, but it’s so well done (and separated by sections) the jumping around didn’t bother me. I really love anything with a historical element, even if it doesn’t qualify as historical fiction.

    Great post, Marcia!

    1. The Seance sounds good…I’ll have to check it out. I hear you about loving any historical elements. Reading about history is so much more enjoyable now than it was as a student. thanks, Stacy!

  10. […] series is going well, this week Marcia Richards let us know how to put the “story” in Historical Fiction. […]

  11. […] Feb. 15: Marcia Richards on Historical Fiction. Marcia is creating her debut historical trilogy covering the years between 1917 and 1975. The Donnellys, an immigrant Irish family, struggles with economic troubles and personal tragedy, while striving to maintain their dreams. The trilogy highlights three generations of strong, young women fighting their way to the fulfillment of their dreams, learning who they are along the way. Marcia Richards’ blog Sexy. Smart. From the Heart, offers posts on writing, mid-life, history, and content that’s sexy and smart. […]

  12. […] Richards – Historical fiction has it all. Marcia is creating her debut historical trilogy covering the years between 1917 and 1975. The […]

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