Historical fiction is a genre of fiction that takes place in a historical time and place. The stories are fictional but are often based on real people and events. When writing historical fiction, the author researches about the time period to help reconstruct what life was like. By reading historical fiction, we learn more about the past.
Here are 10 elements to consider when writing historical fiction:
Determine your purpose in writing historical fiction. Do you write to entertain or to share information about an event or era in history? What is your emotional connection to a particular period in history? What do you want your readers to learn from your story or about a time or event in history?
Research is vital to plotting and writing a compelling and authentic historical fiction novel. You write about a time period that you love or find interesting or significant because you will be doing a lot of research. You will be reading fiction and non-fiction books written about a particular time period, as well as talking to people who are experts in the field.
In historical fiction, the story takes place in a particular time period in history and in a particular geographical location. When writing historical fiction, the setting must be real and authentic. The place is just like it would have been back then. You should research what happened in the world and/or at a particular place during a particular time.
Your characters may be actual people from the past or be based on people from the past. Whether they be factual or fictional, they must accurately represent someone at a particular time period. They are people you believe could have existed during that time period. Research how people dress, act, speak and live in a particular time in history.
Because historical fiction takes place in the past, your story should focus on the manners and customs of a particular period in history. Your plot may involve real people and events, but you can also embellish or add details to a historical time period. A plot should involve a conflict or dilemma, but you can also combine real events with fictional events or mix fact with fiction.
What are the problems faced by your characters in your story? As with the plot, the conflict must be realistic for the chosen time and place. Your readers will want to understand the reason/s for the conflict that you present. A noble Japanese woman without a dowry in the Edo Period might be forced to live off the streets, enter prostitution, or take vows as a Buddhist nun. Each choice leads to conflict.
Your dialogue should reflect the thoughts and dialect of the people during a particular era in history. How did people in the different social classes or geographical locations speak? What words and phrases did they use, and what did they mean? Make sure to use words and actions that reflect the time period, know their meanings and uses, and understand the vocabulary and grammatical structures of the past to help readers understand they are in another time period.
When writing historical fiction, you must accurately capture the details of the time period for authenticity. This includes including social norms, manners, customs, and traditions – anything that today’s readers are not acquainted with. So, make sure to use vivid, descriptive language when explaining unfamiliar historical information to readers.
Themes are related to life, people, social, political events, as well as good versus evil. Your theme must fit within the context of your story’s time period. What constitutes feminism in Edo Period Japan? What is patriotism in the British North American colonies? What does coming of age look like in pre-Islamic Arabia?
10. World building
When writing historical fiction, you should write in the way that reminds readers they’re reading about a different time period in the past. So, you have to be mindful not only about the language but also the customs, family environment, social and political structures, physical geography, names of places, religious observance, politics of the times, etc. Research plays a large part here.