Letting History Speak in Fiction Novels

Filed in Author Inspirations by on July 11, 2013 0 Comments

For all those history buffs out there, it can be a common complaint when it comes to fiction books. You pick up a book that takes place in a time period you enjoy (at least that’s what you read from the back cover) and prepare your mind to take a journey into another era of history.

However, the setting, plot scenarios and even characters don’t seem to embrace the time period, making it a disjointed jaunt with no connection or enjoyment for the reader. How can you establish an image of a medieval castle in your mind unless the author is using their words to feed that image?

The Circuit Riders, History NovelTwo Xulon Press authors, one who is self-publishing her second book, have understood the importance of staying historically accurate in setting, character development and plot when it comes to historical fiction.

Bill Wood, Christian author of The Circuit Riders, chronicles the travels of itinerant preachers in the 1800s Old West. Bill takes you right into the heart of the Old West period; bringing readers aboard a riverboat, traipsing through the happenings of small towns and even relaxing in the comforts of a moonlit campsite.

Take a look at how Bill describes the early morning activities of his lead character, a preacher, aboard a riverboat on the Mississippi River: “The tall, greying man-of-the cloth leaned against the white, elegantly decorated, iron railing of the riverboat and gazed dreamingly at the sandy tree-lined bank.  As his mind recalled almost forgotten events of his youth, a sly grin crossed his lips the way it did when the old preacher was ‘setting’ someone up for the kill.’”

Dearest Catherine, History NovelIn the second book of the Dearest Catherine series, Christian author Annette Perkins describes the landscape of eighteenth century England through the eyes of a sophisticated matriarch in a privileged but hostile English household. The novel’s central theme of male and female roles in traditional society is one of many colorful themes to create a well-rounded depiction of the Victorian era.

Here is an excerpt of Dearest Catherine, describing the activities of a bustling town in England: “Pleasant conversation and humorous stories from Eleanor kept us occupied for over five hours on the journey. Upon arriving at the hotel, I was informed that we were in Andover. As we debarked from the carriage, stiff from the time aboard, we looked around at the hustle and bustle of the city. Numerous carriages and stagecoaches were traveling the streets as people ambled about conducting business or shopping.”

Both authors use their lead characters to propel each story’s setting forward, using their narrations of the setting to expand on the details and bring the story to life.

Even unnoticed details like the appearances of the horses or the intricacy of the grand dining room create the landscape that the characters call “home” and the readers call “history.”

If you are interested in writing a historical novel, it is simply just doing your “homework” on the time period of your novel. Just as you wouldn’t go to a movie depicted in the 1700s and see characters driving in cars, the same applies to novels and having characters existing in lifestyles appropriate to their time period.

Research what the life was like during that period, politically, socially and economically; what were the family dynamics, significance of social statuses, mentality towards religion, etc. The research may also be beneficial to you, as the author, in developing the character, plot and general story flow.

Make sure to pick up The Circuit Riders and Dearest Catherine next time you visit Xulon Press Bookstore. Besides being able to take a journey to another era in the pages of a book, you may have an inclining to try your own hand at writing history.



About the Author ()

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.

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