writing historical fiction, characters historical fiction

How-To Write: All About Historical Fiction, Real Characters

writing historical fiction, characters historical fiction

In historical fiction, your focus as the author may be toward authenticating the setting, presenting believable characters and creating a compelling storyline that will grab readers and hold their attention from beginning to end.

What can be an aspect missed while writing historical fiction is the opportunity to allow readers access to the main characters’ thoughts, feelings and beliefs through inner monologues. The reason could be that the author may see the story as what will be the relatable factor for readers, or maybe a hesitance to put oneself into the characters’ mindsets at that particular time period and produce accurate thoughts.

Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that what readers are drawn to most with characters is not their appearances, abilities or what situations they find themselves in on a regular basis.

It is about how readers feel as they discover the characters’ personalities depicted in their inner thoughts; how those characters identify in similar ways with what is currently occurring in readers’ lives at the moment.

So, as you are creating these literary individuals for your novel, take a moment to look at each character separately and explore the situations they will be involved in within the book. Will the characters have to be leaders of some conflict; have to lose family members/friends suddenly; find they are in love with the right/wrong person; or, will they be finding their purpose in life through a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Jot down these situations on paper for each character and ponder on what typical reactions/thoughts/feelings could emerge during these situations, in comparison to the personality of each character.

As you start to write down these emotions, you will begin formulating the internal dialogue that will surface from each character, as they recognize what they are going through and reflect on their next course of action.

This exercise could also be beneficial in developing the backgrounds/pasts of your characters as well, using the successes and trials they endured previously to shape their reactions to situations occurring in the novel.

The goal is to create characters that are true to the time period of the novel, but who are also convincing individuals, authentic in their reactions and thoughts to what they are experiencing. Taking this extra step in character development will elevate your novel from literature set in a historic era to genuine, relevant characters living in a bygone period.


Blair Townley joined the Xulon Press family as a Staff Editor in May 2013, helping first-time authors prepare their treasured manuscripts for publication. Prior to Xulon Press, she previously worked as a staff writer/editor for several Central Florida-based magazines over the past decade. What Blair enjoys most about writing and editing is getting to help others share their stories, helping others see themselves as the unique individuals God created them to be.

2 Comments on “How-To Write: All About Historical Fiction, Real Characters

  1. I have one of these tucked away in my head also, a Civil War period story. But, first, we have to see what the Lord will allow to work for the one in print and the one which will be when there is the money to do it.

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