Tips for writing historical fiction

(Tips for writing historical fiction from myself and other writers, links to other articles included!)

 

Historical fiction is a delicate balance of wanting to express the history of the setting or event and providing fictional characters with empathy, for the reader to connect to. Therefore, in my novels I focus on building the world and the rules of that world. I include historical details about daily life which can add historical context reader, but I aim to balance that detail with familiar and relatable details to keep my stories grounded.

Masterclass.com:  “Worldbuilding makes a historical fiction book more authentic …However, don’t add information just to add it; make sure every part of your world-building advances the story.”

This is an important part of developing as a writer! It can be all too easy to get carried away with exposition, telling your reader about your historical research without progressing the story.

The beginning of your novel

There are so many different ways to open the novel! I try to begin mine with a problem or conflict for the main character, making sure that my first paragraph captures the reader straight away.

If you can leave your first chapter on a talking point or a mini cliff-hanger, you compel your reader to keep reading which is important as this is the first natural place whereby a reader could stop reading!

Lesley Downer, the author of The Shogun’s Queen, shares her advice for penning historical fiction:

“Remember that the story is always important

When I write I want to take my readers on a journey to an unfamiliar time and place, but I also want to keep true to the history. For me the point of research is not just to gather information. I also want to immerse myself in the place and the period until I live and breathe it. I want to see all the places with my own eyes – taste the flavour, feel the atmosphere, breathe the air. When I travel I keep a diary and note down every tiny feature. Some I can’t immediately see a use for but once I’m home an unexpected detail often inspires me.  I immensely enjoyed both researching and writing The Shogun’s Quartet – it was a chance to step into another world and in my writing I’ve done my best to take my readers there too.”

 

I wanted to share my opening of ‘Echoes of Time’, to give you a taster of how I begin my action – enjoy!

 

CHAPTER ONE

Guernsey – 1987

Olive was cooking her usual meagre supper of scrambled eggs on toast when the sound of heavy footsteps outside made her jump. No-one ever visited and this was how she liked it. Always had. Her heart pounded as she moved the pan off the blackened range and turned to face the back door. Unlocked as was the custom in safe little Guernsey. Or was it safe? Grabbing a knife she watched, immobile, as the knob turned and the door began to open. The man stood silhouetted against the early evening sky and she stared hard at his shape, puzzled. There was something familiar about the slope of the shoulders and the angle of his head. Her mouth went dry in the moment before the door closed and he moved into the light.

It couldn’t be! Not after all this time…She felt her legs tremble and leant back against the range.

‘Hello, Olive. Bet you didn’t expect to see me again, did you?’ He chuckled, humourlessly.

She hid the knife up her sleeve and pulled the darned cardigan around her thin body. Old memories surfaced as she fought to stay calm.

‘We…we heard you were dead. You didn’t come back–’

‘No, well, I found someone and something better, didn’t I? But it doesn’t look as if you have.’ His gaze was contemptuous as he looked her up and down, and Olive was conscious of how unkempt she looked. Poverty does that to a person. Whereas he was immaculately dressed in what looked like a designer suit. A successful man. She watched, helpless, as his gaze wandered over the kitchen, and she registered, for the first time in years, how dirty and shabby it looked. The kitchen which had once been kept spotless. Feelings of shame, mixed with overriding fear, flooded her mind. What did he want?

Links to Echoes of Time:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Echoes-Time-Guernsey-Novels-Book-ebook/dp/B01IXB3LRG

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Research for my novels are half the fun of writing them!

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Tips for writing historical fiction

(Tips for writing historical fiction from myself and other writers, links to other articles included!)

 

Historical fiction is a delicate balance of wanting to express the history of the setting or event and providing fictional characters with empathy, for the reader to connect to. Therefore, in my novels I focus on building the world and the rules of that world. I include historical details about daily life which can add historical context reader, but I aim to balance that detail with familiar and relatable details to keep my stories grounded.

Masterclass.com:  “Worldbuilding makes a historical fiction book more authentic …However, don’t add information just to add it; make sure every part of your world-building advances the story.”

This is an important part of developing as a writer! It can be all too easy to get carried away with exposition, telling your reader about your historical research without progressing the story.

The beginning of your novel

There are so many different ways to open the novel! I try to begin mine with a problem or conflict for the main character, making sure that my first paragraph captures the reader straight away.

If you can leave your first chapter on a talking point or a mini cliff-hanger, you compel your reader to keep reading which is important as this is the first natural place whereby a reader could stop reading!

Lesley Downer, the author of The Shogun’s Queen, shares her advice for penning historical fiction:

“Remember that the story is always important

When I write I want to take my readers on a journey to an unfamiliar time and place, but I also want to keep true to the history. For me the point of research is not just to gather information. I also want to immerse myself in the place and the period until I live and breathe it. I want to see all the places with my own eyes – taste the flavour, feel the atmosphere, breathe the air. When I travel I keep a diary and note down every tiny feature. Some I can’t immediately see a use for but once I’m home an unexpected detail often inspires me.  I immensely enjoyed both researching and writing The Shogun’s Quartet – it was a chance to step into another world and in my writing I’ve done my best to take my readers there too.”

 

I wanted to share my opening of ‘Echoes of Time’, to give you a taster of how I begin my action – enjoy!

 

CHAPTER ONE

Guernsey – 1987

Olive was cooking her usual meagre supper of scrambled eggs on toast when the sound of heavy footsteps outside made her jump. No-one ever visited and this was how she liked it. Always had. Her heart pounded as she moved the pan off the blackened range and turned to face the back door. Unlocked as was the custom in safe little Guernsey. Or was it safe? Grabbing a knife she watched, immobile, as the knob turned and the door began to open. The man stood silhouetted against the early evening sky and she stared hard at his shape, puzzled. There was something familiar about the slope of the shoulders and the angle of his head. Her mouth went dry in the moment before the door closed and he moved into the light.

It couldn’t be! Not after all this time…She felt her legs tremble and leant back against the range.

‘Hello, Olive. Bet you didn’t expect to see me again, did you?’ He chuckled, humourlessly.

She hid the knife up her sleeve and pulled the darned cardigan around her thin body. Old memories surfaced as she fought to stay calm.

‘We…we heard you were dead. You didn’t come back–’

‘No, well, I found someone and something better, didn’t I? But it doesn’t look as if you have.’ His gaze was contemptuous as he looked her up and down, and Olive was conscious of how unkempt she looked. Poverty does that to a person. Whereas he was immaculately dressed in what looked like a designer suit. A successful man. She watched, helpless, as his gaze wandered over the kitchen, and she registered, for the first time in years, how dirty and shabby it looked. The kitchen which had once been kept spotless. Feelings of shame, mixed with overriding fear, flooded her mind. What did he want?

Links to Echoes of Time:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Echoes-Time-Guernsey-Novels-Book-ebook/dp/B01IXB3LRG

Previous Post
Research for my novels are half the fun of writing them!

Related Posts

No results found.

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