The common saying: “Write what you know.”
Don’t believe it because you should: “Research what you don’t know and then write about that.”
Writing Historical Fiction is a challenge, and considering the popularity of fiction is not heavily rested on the shoulders of HF, it doesn’t mean it’s a genre to be ignored. If anything, it’s on a slow rise. So what exactly is HF? Historical Fiction is when a stories plot is set in the past (so historical accuracy is key)—this is the complete basic premise of it, however if you’re an avid reader of HF, you probably already understand the nuts and bolts of it.
Two Important Nuts and Bolts (for those who DON’T understand it)
- Historical accuracy is vital. This must be the most obvious but what can kill a story is being completely inaccurate with common known facts. For example, in Pride & Prejudice you don’t see the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet drooling over Mr. Darcy’s Facebook photos, taking screen shots of every emo YouTube video he posts…because there was no internet or computers in the 1800s where the story takes place. Even minor inaccuracies can take the reader out of the story so beware and fact check/research the shit out of your story to confirm is authenticity. Know the language, the time period. Everything! Like before, know the time period you are writing for in order to keep that accuracy going. I can’t imagine The Tudors (one of my favorite series) being set in the correct time period but the characters talking as we do now or using the slang words of now. Just awful.
- Tell the story you want to tell: A complete novel jam-packed with facts may leave little time to tell the actual story. Have your characters interact with the time period—whether reacting to historical events or the way society was at that time (and leave your judgy-attitude out of it—of course there are things in the past that are not PC, you’re not policing your story, you’re writing it). AS ALWAYS, THE STORY IS THE PRIORITY, improving it with accuracy comes after.
Why It’s an Interesting Genre to Write About
If history is of interest to you (because you’re a badass history buff with ideas streaming in your head as you fall asleep with your favorite history book on your chest) , then dive in, you’re already a fan!!!
Even if it isn’t, you may surprise yourself by choosing an existing setting rather than creating a completely new world
There are so many time periods/events that have been ignored or barely scratched the surface!
Historical Writing: Just a Few Settings to Consider
Armed Conflicts/WAR-What’s it good for? Pshh. Absolutely nothing!
Civil war, War of the Golden Stool, Angelo-Aro War, Bailundo Revolt of 1902, Saudi—Rashidi War, 1904 Sasun Uprising, Herero Wars, Russo-Japanese War, Macedonian Struggle, Revolution of 1905, Maji Maji Rebellion, 1907 Romanian Peasants’ Revolt, Second Melillan campaign, Ouaddai War, Mexican Revolution, Albanian Revolt of 1910, Chinese invasion of Tibet (1910), Dominican Civil War , French conquest of Morocco, Italo-Turkish War, Xinhai Revolution, Sino-Mongolian War, First Balkan War, Contestado War, Banana Wars, Second Balkan War, Ohrid–Debar Uprising, Zaian War, World War I, Maritz Rebellion, Chilembwe uprising, National Protection War, Kaocen Revolt, Easter Rising, Green Corn Rebellion, October Revolution, Russian Civil War, Greater Poland Uprising , War of the Insane, Polish–Czechoslovak War, Hungarian–Romanian war of 1919, Turkish War of Independence, Irish War of Independence, Vlora War, Rif War, 1921 Persian coup d’etat, Irish Civil War, Corfu incident, Northern Expedition, Women’s War, Yen Bai mutiny, Chaco War, Austrian Civil War, World War II…and so much more
These are just from the 1900’s to mid-1940’s (aside from the Civil War)—not including all the conflicts before and after that.
Presidential elections (especially behind the scenes), the beginning of a long lasting part of the country such as the Secret Service (ironically created by Pres. Lincoln before his assassination) or Congress, Women’s Rights Movement, Temperance movement, Movements about the mentally insane (search Dorothea Dix), Social Purity Movement, Abolition, American Revolution, The Labor movement, The Civil Rights Movement, The Environmental Movement (1950s), Prohibition, Feminism Movement (1970s), The Great Depression, the Roaring 20’s,Royal Reigns, Romanticism and so on…
Just a Reminder…
- Pick a time period that is most interesting to you and will benefit the story you are trying to tell—is it a romance set during wartime? If so, what war? Don’t always pick the most known because 9 out of 10, the story setting has been used—about a thousand times over
- Research and fact check like its your job
- Keep in mind that the shelves of every bookstore may favor other genres but your kick ass book is going to blow them out of the water
- And keep an eye on literary agents accepting HF