Sunday, July 27, 2008

historical fiction

There are so many kinds of fiction being written today but my kind boils down to good old-fashioned historical fiction. My husband likes to call it hysterical fiction and really, when you think about what happens in a good novel, he's not far off the mark. I've heard that a writer spends the first half of a novel getting a character up a tree, and then the last half of the novel getting that character down.

That really means you must create all kinds of conflict and problems for your characters and yet, at book's end, at least within the world of Christian fiction, your story must be "emotionally satisfying." The secular market doesn't operate with this same criteria except perhaps in the romance market.

I wouldn't want to write a romance as the parameters for doing so are so narrow. Your hero and heroine usually meet within the first few pages and then dance around for the rest of the book. With historical fiction, you can do a great many more things. I like to write a romance within historical fiction - without it a book would be flat, I think. And I like to have a happy ending - something life doesn't guarantee any of us. But at least in my imagination there is always a good outcome.

But there are real risks in writing historical fiction. You have to do lots of homework. And be true to the language of that time period. I have a wonderful (big) dictionary that tells me when words came into being - actual dates. I rely on this heavily. Recently I used the word "floozy" in this third book and then struck it out as my dictionary told me its birthdate was 1911. My time period is late 18th-century. So I resorted to "Jezebel" instead - a wonderfully safe substitute as it is Hebrew and so old the date isn't even listed.

I recently read that historical fiction has a shelf life three times longer than a contemporary novel. Maybe that makes all the hard work worthwhile. Hope you're reading a great historical work today. Here's one worth picking up - Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan.

Happy reading.

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