Tips on researching and making history come alive, while writing historical fiction.
Do you love history? Maybe you’ve read novels about brave highlanders and lairds who swept their ladies fair off their feet. Or maybe your taste goes more towards epic Roman and Greek battles. Of course, there’s always the good old United States and all its possibilities for a grand historical fiction novel- from the battle for independence to the taming of the wild west. Have you ever thought about writing a historical fiction novel, but decided not to go through with it because the research seemed too daunting? Well, allow me to step in and help. I’ve written several historical fiction tales and I’ve found ways to make the research fun. I’ve also found ways to add those little details to make history come to life in my stories.
Some may ask what the difference is between historical fiction and historical non fiction. The main difference in historical fiction is that fictional characters are intertwined with historical events. Think about Scarlett and Rhett in Gone With the Wind. While the Civil War was all too real, Scarlett, Rhett, even the secondary characters were all figments of Margaret Mitchell’s imagination. Many historical fiction novels today are romance novels, a trend started by Regency author Georgette Hyer and epic romance novelist like Kathleen Woodiwiss. Readers may be tempted after reading a sweeping, sensual historical romance novel to write one of their one, but they first must be careful about the research. The last thing a reader wants to read is modern terms in medieval romance. They’ll throw the book down without giving it a second chance.
The library is great place to start for research. If you’re interested in writing local historical fiction, many libraries have full sections dedicated to local history. Also, make trips to local historical societies and museums. There you should find artifacts and manuscripts to help you envision what life was like for the pioneers of your hometown.
The Internet has many wonderful resources as well. I personally love genealogy sites like U.S. Gen Web because there are so many fantastic stories passed down from generation to generation at websites like that. I often browse though genealogy websites to look for inspiration. On the internet, you can also find slang websites for the different eras, fashion websites, and if you’re writing a twentieth century historical, I’ve found that the Internet Movie Database is a great resource for celebrities and movies since the dawn of the motion picture industry. Don’t forget to work in any real celebrities or legendary figures into your historical fiction, because it’s details like these that make the history come alive.