Xlibris Writing Tips| Writing Historical Fiction


Historical Fiction is an interesting genre in books, combining narrative fiction with historical scholarship. Prominent historical fiction authors include Jeff Shaara, Bernard Cornwell, and Sharon Kay Penman. In historical fiction, authors narrate and bring to life historical events, personalities, and beliefs in ways beyond what is seen in textbooks. Like any other piece of fiction, historical fiction gets you invested in the characters involved, concerned about the outcome despite knowing what did happen. There are vast depths and ranges of history that have yet to be explored. Xlibris Publishing wants to share some tips and suggestions for writing your piece of historical fiction, no matter the era or time period.


Do the Research

Xlibris Writing Tips| Writing Historical Fiction
History contains a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for modern writers.

Know the history you are writing about. Know the language, terms, and sayings used by the people and characters you are writing about. Know the cause and affect regarding the events taking place in your story. There are few cases of people fighting wars or pushing social movements because of ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ so know what motivated the various groups and sides. Such motivations may be as simple and petty as greed. Other motivations may be as complex personal rights and liberties. It is disturbing how often across history people have been united by hatred. But overall, you can write about history, any history, you must know the history. And to know the history you must do the research


When researching history there are two types of sources to keep in mind: primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources were written and recorded by actual witnesses or contemporaries of historical events and persons. Primary sources are especially valuable to historical fiction authors as they are a window into the perspectives, thoughts, and culture of the people during that time. Secondary sources are breakdowns, analyses, and studies of the same history, based off of the primary sources. Secondary sources help establish larger contexts and later realizations regarding events depicted in primary sources. Secondary sources can also be helpful in interpreting especially convoluted or language dense primary sources.


Recognize Values Dissonance

Often, when dealing with other historical periods, you will find yourself having to write about characters whose morals and sense of virtue differ from yours. Actions and perspectives we know today as abhorrent or barbaric could be seen as normal or even praiseworthy at various points in the past. It is important to not excuse or condone such differing values, but it is important to acknowledge the realities of history and how people used to be.


Xlibris Publishing will return with Part 2 of Writing Historical Fiction

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By Ian Smith