Writing historical fiction Verity Bradley .pdf
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Thoughts on writing historical fiction
Have you ever wanted to write about the English Civil War? It's a fascinating subject that many
people enjoy. Here are a few thoughts from Literature and History graduate, Verity Bradley
When writing historical fiction, there is nothing so important as research. The factual groundwork
has to be covered even if you are planning on deviating from historical events as they happened.
Knowing the historical who, what, where, and when might sound cliché but they really answer the
main question of WHY for your characters. It is the 'why' or the motivation which the reader should
be interested in seeing develop, or it could easily become dry, and dull rehashing of non-fiction.
The audience are people who are interested in the historical time period that you have chosen and
they will be discerning. Members of the Sealed Knot know their English Civil War inside out! Your
credibility of storytelling relies not only upon characters and dialogue but how you interpret your
research and use it creatively. If you're going to drastically change an event or outcome then there
should be a solid reasoning behind it. The reader will appreciate why you have done it if you
explain it within the story and will accept it as part of the experience. If the story doesn't adequately
explain the deviation from the standard version of historical truth then they will assume that the
author doesn't know his or her subject well enough and they lose their authoritative status.
The fabric of historical fiction is open to creative interpretation in the small details, whilst leaving
the historical accuracy authentic on the larger scale. Every small detail counts towards making the
whole story come together. What type of clothing was appropriate, what did they eat for dinner,
how much could be carried on a day's march? It can seem a little daunting to think of researching
these things, but historical research has never been more simple in this digital age.
Your local library and the internet are your friends for historical research. Images of paintings and
prints can show what people and places looked like and are easily accessible through image
searches online. Biographies are good for finding fantastic nuggets of personal information on real
people. Often the main characters of historical fiction relate to real life counterparts, but are more
free to adventure and change the course of history! That royal prince or brave soldier might need
have a trusty friend or a devious servant imagined for them in order to spice up the truth a little.
Family trees, encyclopedias and baby's name origins are great for creating fascinating and accurate
backgrounds for characters and places. Generally speaking, everybody loves a hero like Sharpe, or a
wit like Edmund Blackadder. Take inspiration from authors who you already enjoy reading as you
shape your own writing style.
A final thought – sometimes the truth can be stranger than anything you can imagine for your
fiction. By checking the facts to begin with you can find some beautiful plot lines and dialogue to