Writing Historical Fiction: Novel Writing Tips

Learn How To Successfully Write Historical Fiction Books

Scriptwriting troubles

Historical fiction has always been popular, with people gravitating toward novels set in time periods that they have an interest in. But writing int his genre is a lot more work than writing a contemporary fiction piece.

  1. Choose a time period. The time period should be very specific, not a vague decade within a century. Clothing styles, customs and social mores change from decade to decade and often even more frequently. Choose the exact years in which your book will take place. Popular broad time periods include the Regency period in England, the Civil War period in the U.S., the late Middle Ages in Europe, and the late 19th century in either America or Europe. These periods have a lot of devoted readers, but any time period and any place may be the setting for your work. If you cannot think of a time period that you are familiar with, think of a person or character that appeals to you and see if that time period is one that you want to write about.
  2. Research, research, research. The moment in history that you choose should be very familiar to you by the time you have finished your research. You should know the common customs, the class system, the monetary system, the common living arrangements, and anything else that may come up in your work. One or two wrong details will cause you to lose you credibility fast. If there are obvious anachronistic errors, you can also be prepared for bags of letters being sent to you to admonish you for those errors. Do as much research as possible before you even begin to write. Writing a story and then trying to adapt it to a certain time period will come out sounding artificial and forced. The information you uncover will guide the story you write and take it to places you hadn't considered before.
  3. Give the characters an appropriate perspective. The best part of writing a novel is the characters and making them come to life. The characters should have the mindset of people from that time period. They are shaped by their experiences, family life and culture, which includes the time and place in which they are born. A character's general perspective on the world will be obvious in books written in the first person. If the book is written in the third person, a character's values as defined by the time period can be demonstrated through the character's dialogue and actions, or through the narrative voice recounting the thoughts and feelings of the character. However the viewpoint is demonstrated, it should be apparent that the character is not simply a modern person dropped into a different time period.
  4. Work out a plot. Coming up with a plot will have a lot to do with the time period you choose. Whether you want to write about romance, politics, religion, crime or anything else, they will be to some extent shaped by the time period you have set. The time period may actually suggest a plot to you during your research. Make a basic outline of the plot before writing.
  5. Choose your characters wisely. Your characters are why people read. The time period and plot are guidelines for your characters to follow, but your characters are the real story. Create them wisely and with care. Every character should have flaws to be believable and make the reader relate to them. Creating back stories for each character will give you a consistent guide to follow when deciding a character's actions and reactions. Even if the back story is not present in the work, it will show in the character's consistency.

    A character can be a real figure from history, or can be a completely original character. When using an actual historical figure, some aspects of the person can be fictionalized to a certain extent. What parts are fictionalized are largely up to the writer, but figures who were alive in recent times will have more about them in print, making errors or changes more easily recognized. However you depict a historical figure in fiction, you make sure that your partially fictionalized vision of the person is consistent with scholarly knowledge of the figure. With figures who lived centuries ago, there may be very little actually known about the person and the character will have to be fictionalized to a greater degree.

This isn't the easiest genre to write, but it is a timeless art form that remains a popular avenue of escapism. If you work is realistic and believable, it should provide its readers with a wonderful escape from the contemporary world. We hope novel writing tips will set you on your way and perhaps one day find your book on the bestseller list.


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Some good pointers. Thanks for the article.

By Marion Cornett