There was a time when historical fiction was very trendy. That time has passed, but historical fiction readers are a faithful (and ruthless) audience. Do you like historical novels? Have you ever written one?
We live in a fantastic world. It is full of different places and people and many inspirational opportunities. So, why should you place your novel in the past? Why look for a completely different world?
1. Research is fun!
Writing historical fiction is challenging, especially if you don’t know much about history. Yet, what may seem like a challenge, is, in fact, the fun part of writing historical fiction!
Researching can be fun when you’re doing it for your story (and not because some teacher ordered you) and choosing what you want to know. The research can be inspiring by itself, and of course, you’ll learn a lot with low effort.
You can already have a story in your mind and research the time and place to make it accurate, or you can choose the time and see what ideas you get from your research. It’s totally up to you.
2. Mentally escape
Writing historical fiction can be quite absorbing, and that’s, sometimes, very welcome. You can use your imagination to the full, feel yourself in that place, imagine the smells, the sounds, and how every object you would touch feels like. Like time traveling, but inside your head.
Making your brain escape to another time and place can be therapeutic. You’re not thinking about your problems. Your characters have very different ones. You can even conclude that you’re a fortunate person by living in this century.
3. You can go wild
It all depends on how accurate you want to be to the historical period. Yet, in general, things are very different from nowadays. Some things wouldn’t make sense now, but you could make them happen in a past time with little scientific knowledge.
Sometimes, the characters look too naive, and your audience may say, “No one would believe that.” Well, if it needs some scientific knowledge, and your story happened in 1203… they would.
The research work
The reason to write historical fiction is different from a fantasy novel. You want to go somewhere else and create many stories that would not be possible in your time, but you want them to be realistic.
You want people to relate what they read with their knowledge about that specific time. It would be a nightmare if your readers called you a liar, right?
So, you should be careful with your research. Cross data, look at different places, and try to be as loyal as possible to the time you choose.
Don’t limit yourself to the most obvious places to research. Try to connect with historical societies and meet people online interested in the time you’re exploring. They’ll know everything about it!
Also, don’t limit yourself to descriptions and textbooks. Go to see some art. You don’t need to go physically into a museum (but it would be perfect if you could). You can look online. Observe the surroundings, the objects in the paintings and draws, and the people’s clothes and hairstyles. All these details will help you to build your narrative and enrich your novel.
Choosing the material
Good research will give you tons of information, and no matter how interesting it may be, not all of it it’s relevant to your story. Yet, even if you don’t use it directly in the story, it will always be a good reference for you. Every piece of information helps you visualize your story’s world more vividly.
Focus on the political and social organization of society, including religion. Be aware of this society’s clothing, transportation, house style, and medical knowledge (remedies, common diseases, etc.). Every single detail will make your story more realistic.
History doesn’t need to be boring
Many people relate historical books with the History class we all had at school. That can be enough for you to drop the idea of writing a historical novel.
Yet, let me tell you that it is pretty different. Your novel is not about history but about the story. It is not a list of facts and dates but emotions and relationships.