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Friday, 9 September 2011

Absolutely Historical!

Do you write or read historical fiction? 

What draws you to the genre?

I'm not much of a historical novel reader, though I love costume dramas in film and TV.

WHY?  It's probably because I often find the dialogue too flowery and convoluted on the written page.

Someone who handles dialogue so seemlessly is Sue Birtwistle. Her dialogue is representative of the era and yet it flows so beautifully from the actors mouths.


Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide and Tool-Kit by Myfanwy Cook


I've been reading this text which I thoroughly recommend if you are planning to have a go yourself. It is also great for pointers that you can apply to other genres.I've already been caught out by amateurish mistakes.
Like me, the main things you've probably come across already are:
  • not enough research done
  • settings aren't specific enough to locate the reader with the characters into the correct era
  • too much historical detail
  • anachronisms creeping into the text
  • lame, stilted or over flowery dialogue, (or otherwise ramming that fine lace trimmed handkerchief down the poor reader's throats!)
Who would you recommend? What era's and sub-genres do you like?
Any good YA historical reads you'd recommend?

16 comments:

  1. I don't write historical fiction because I'm terrified I'll put the wrong kind of fastener on a dress etc etc! I'm in awe of anyone who can do that amount of research and still be creative.

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  2. Hi,

    I love reading historical novels (romance)and writing same. And yes, research is essential to convey era, but that said too much research (too much historical fact) can blight an otherwise good read. Too little research can often make a book seem nothing more than characters in fancy dress, i.e. modern dialogue!

    I've read a couple of Regency novellas recently that were so laden down with "Regency Speak" terminology of the Ton etc., it read more like a reference book for aspiring writers to the Regency period. Or as one might say, the author was OTT on "I know my era", but clearly getting a few things wrong.

    The thing that really bugs me is when authors refer to horses and carriages/coaches, re speed of horses pulling said carriages and clever/reckless coachman, postilions, tigers/grooms etc., and clearly no knowledge of a what the aforementioned persons are and their duties, nor any knowledge of driving horses: one/two/four in-hand abreast, nor tandem, nor livery/tack. Time and time again tigers are mentioned, when tigers were only ever needed on specific types of carriages/coach. Private coaches were known a drags, yet I've rarely seen a drag mentioned!

    Someone needs to write a Regency reference manual.

    best
    F

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  3. Talli, yes Philippa Gregory spends 2 yrs researching her novels, apparently

    Sounds like you may have an opening there, Francine, entitled:
    How Not to Write a Regency Novel.

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  4. I don't read historical novels unless rereading of the classics count. I won't be able to find much fault unless its an era I am familiar with or something just sticks out like a sore thumb.

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  5. Love books about historical kinds and queens.

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  6. Hi Madeleine .. I love historical novels .. though I can't remember exactly what - I tend to rush through them .. often at a bedside, so not really conducive to effective reading!

    But I like Francine's comment .. and exactly - her book is as you describe - I wonder if she will write it .. she obviously knows her driving skills - now that would floor me.

    Cheers ... Hilary

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  7. I love historical novels.
    Just recently though, I find the sight of a Regency novel on the shelf makes me feel a little faint. I'm not reaching for the smelling salts, I'm looking for something set in a different age :)

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  8. I read a lot of historical fiction. I like it for the same reasons I enjoy fantasy. If the author has done their job right, I get transported to another time and place. One of the best historical authors is HIllary Mantel. Loved her novel Wolf Hall. Another is Sarah Dunant. She writes a lot about Renaissance Italy. Enjoy both authors very much. Phillipa Gregory is also good. :)

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  9. I don't write historical fiction, because I am scared of not doing sufficient research and getting my facts wrong.

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  10. I enjoy historical fiction, particularly mysteries. I would like to write a historical mystery set in Victorian England, but it requires way more research--and a trip to Ireland and England--to properly write it, which I don't have the time or the money right now to do so.

    A couple months ago, I read HAUNTING VIOLET by Alyxandra Harvey. It was a fabulous YA Paranormal Historical.

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  11. IMHO The best historical fiction is like any fiction, it provides me an opening to use my imagination. The writer may need minute details but the reader doesn't.
    My favorite example are Christie and Winspear. Their stories are set in a specific historical time but can be moved forward or even back in time with few adjustments and no losses.
    That is showing not telling and accepting that the reader is also intelligent.

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  12. My last historical fiction I've read was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. I would say thumbs up for this book but be prepared for very very long chapters! Take care
    x

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  13. I love historical...romance. lol. But my favorite historical author is definitely Dianne Salerni.

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  14. I love historical romance. One of my favorite authors is Tracy Anne Warren. She does it right.

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  15. I got into historical romance through a very good writer friend of mine in New Zealand called Liz Heywood (though she writes under Beth) She wrote a book called Cherished and it is fantastic). We travelled all over together going to Writerly things and she is the best. Then completely by accident I discovered Jody Hedlund and the rest is history (no pun intended) I am a Preacher's Bride and an even bigger fan of The Doctor's Lady. No excessive flounciness or flowery language at all. Perfect reads.

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  16. Unfortunately, I don't read historical fiction. I'd have loved to recommend something, here.

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