Research is one of the very first steps on your journey to becoming a historical fiction author. Here’s a safety warning: you’re about to dive down a whole load of research rabbit holes. From ancient cutlery to medieval agricultural techniques, there is a lot of stuff historical fiction writers need to know about. Secondary sources are your starting point, but primary sources, particularly letters, newspaper reports, and diaries are also vital.
Don’t be afraid to push the boat out and visit some archives, and, for that matter, do go and visit historical sites relevant to your story if you can. If you want to get really immersed, you can read the fiction of your period, cook the food, or even try and find authentic recreations (or possibly recordings, depending on the era) of the music.
Here’s the thing, though: you’re going to do all of this research, and then you need to discard 95 percent of it. Don’t actually delete your notes, obviously. What I mean is, only a very small fraction of your research should actually make it into your book. The sum total of your research will make the world you create feel real and authentic, and you need to deploy little details carefully and selectively to immerse the reader, but don’t be tempted to show off and dump everything you’ve learned onto the page. Otherwise you’ll end up with a dry tome of a history book, not an engaging historical novel.
Hi, everyone. Like so many these days, our household is taking advantage of the shelter-in-place to reorganize. For the past week, the target was my office. To be honest, it’s been a disaster for a long time.
The first steps were to take everything off of the surfaces and the floor and move them out (whether in boxes or into the trash … as we did some of that on the fly). Then, everything was mopped down and washed. At long last, I moved my day job office materials from the dining room table to one work surface, and my personal set-up to the other. What you see above is the net result. Details of each set-up follow. While it’s a work-in-progress, I can at least now function properly … and have a deliberate separation between the day job and my own time.
How does an author reveal character? Through dialogue, events of the character’s past, through actions taken or not taken, through the opinions of others, through personality quirks and telling details. Even names can be revealing. Beyond these aspects, a character is what s/he wears, what they collection, what they read, the relationships they have, the possessions they collect or covet, how they spend their time and so on.
Furthermore, we can reveal character through what George calls the ‘external landscape of the person’ – looks, dress, home, vehicle, possessions, physicality. And through the ‘internal landscape of a person’: emotions, psyche, soul, wants, needs, reflections, speculations, obsessions, monologues, strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, the voice of a character is shaped by their education, position in society, personal and family history, prejudices, biases, inclinations, desires, belief system, purpose, and goals.Character, a deeper dive Part 2 | A Writer of History
Core need – the single need at the core of who a character is. “We’re born with them and during our lifetimes, we mold most of our behaviour to meet our core need. This is something essential to a person, an automatic striving within him that, when denied, results in whatever constitutes his psychopathology.” — Write Away by Elizabeth GeorgeCharacter in Historical Fiction – a deeper dive | A Writer of History
Some core needs are universal and irrespective of time period. The need to be loved, for example, or the need for a father’s approval. The desire for competence. Others may be influenced by time period or historical events shaping a particular era.
Usually, I share a song on Mondays. I’ve been working my way through a little challenge series, and I would have been on #11. However, one of my heroes has passed away and I wanted to write about him. The problem is, I have yet to gather my thoughts into anything like coherence.
I learned that Rep. John Lewis had passed away while I was driving home from visiting my mom in Oregon. I drove down the freeway bawling my eyes out. This man literally put his life on the line for equality.
I lack his ministerial eloquence (I suspect most of us do). Here is a tiny snippet of who he was.
Rest in power, brother John.