Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

September 2, 2014

Writing Historical Fiction – Part Two

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 5:23 PM

Chuck Sambuchino writes:
 
“There’s a funny sort of tension that occurs when writing historical fiction: Is it possible to achieve total historical accuracy while still telling a great story? Can’t one do both?”
 
I say yes if you follow the tips he gives in his article. Here are just a few – an important few that I am following in writing my next novel IJIN.
 
Have fun with the research, but do your homework. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Borrow some good reference books. Become comfortable with the time period. Try to understand both the larger scope of the period, while examining aspects of daily life. This will help create an authentic backdrop for your novel.
 
After several months of haunting libraries, I finally found the books I needed online. They have become the cornerstone of the real events experienced by real people in the period. As for the historical period itself, I had that covered since I am a World War II aficionado.
 
Let the characters engage with the historical details. This goes along with that “show don’t tell” truism writers are told all the time. Rather than just dumping a bunch of facts on the poor reader, let your characters interact with these details with all these senses. Let them smell the offal dumped onto the cobblestone streets. Let them squint in the fading light of the tallow candles. Let them feel the tingling sensation as the physician places a leech on their bare skin.
 
Or in other words – bring the fiction into the historical events and visa versa.
 
Allow your characters to question and explore their place in society. This will help reveal the larger political, social, cultural context of the time. What were the expectations for women? For sailors? For criminals? How did people from different parts of society interact with one another?
 
My main thrust with this rule is the experience of the American teenage boy against the backdrop of World War Two Japan.
 
Let’s see how I do.

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