The popularity of well-written historical fiction seems to be growing daily. The key term in that sentence is “well-written.” Many works of historical fiction seem to be lacking in certain areas: research on dates and details and dialogue.
Writing dialogue can often be a tedious process when you consider what all must go into a conversation. When writing about the present, it is considerably easier to imagine what a character would say and how he or she would say it. But writing about the past is much more difficult. Historical writers must do their homework about the language used during that time period and how words and phrases were understood by people then. The words we use today did not have the same meaning during the 18th century. Also, the historical writer must make sure the conversation flows as it would have during the time period they are writing about. Today’s conversations are much less formal than conversations of yesteryear.
Historical writing usually focuses around one event in history, and if that event was a major historical event, the writer must be diligent in using correct dates. The historical writer must become a master of research before beginning his or her writing endeavor. Even if the event that is at the center of the story isn’t a major historical event, other events surrounding the story line need to be dated correctly.
Each decade ushers new trends into society. These details must match with what the author is saying. If an author is using the 1950’s as a setting and has the main character using a cellular phone, the reader is going to notice. Those major details will be caught instantly. The author must be aware of other details such as geography, fashion trends, and societal norms during the time period they are writing about.
While historical writing may be gaining popularity, remember that it is more than just sitting down and getting your ideas on to paper. A good historical writer takes time to research the subject and time period in depth. Historical writing can take a lot of work, but the result is usually fascinating.