Top 5 Blunders Writers Make While Writing Historical Fiction

Writing historical fiction is regarded as a fascinating, uplifting, and rejuvenating process; however, it might also feel overwhelming.

Nothing will terrify a historical fiction writer more than the idea that something, somewhere in the draft, might be historically inaccurate; however, that might not be the only blunder. 

Blunders Made By Writers When Writing Historical Fiction

Here is a list of some of the most common errors committed by writers when working on historical fiction -

1. Overabundance of History and Lack of Story

You might have spent months researching your chosen historical period, from the prevalent fashions to the drainage system of that era, and might feel the urge to share everything learned so far with your reader.

However, most of the details you discover while conducting research should not get mentioned in your novel. Too much history will end up asphyxiating out the story. 

While historical fiction readers might look forward to being immersed in an authentic historical world, be mindful of the fact that even they are ultimately looking for a story and not a history lesson. 

One way to deal with this is to integrate history seamlessly. For instance, it will be better to show the reader the weapons that would have been used during that period in a battle rather than having your protagonist take an arbitrary trip to the armory for inspection.

2. Mentioning Wrong Minute Intricacies

Do not overwhelm your reader with every plausible detail about the chosen historic period but selectively use some intricate details of daily life to create a feeling of authenticity. 

The inclusion of a plethora of details often leads writers to commit errors and false claims.

For instance, the protagonist of a Regency novel introducing himself at a public ball rather than waiting to be introduced, or the general public eating potatoes in Europe decades before they got introduced are some wrongly stated facts. 

Such errors annoy the reader and make them feel as if the past is getting portrayed inaccurately.

Getting the minute details right when they make an appearance is paramount, and to achieve this, you must do your research. 

Primary sources such as diaries and letters written by travelers or immigrants can be useful, as they might find the typical features of life worth noting.

If you are looking for some tips on how to write a book, visit Josh Fetcher online.

Josh Fetcher helps companies scale intelligently and speeds up the process. They also offer product management and other courses. 

3. Lack of Balance Between Accuracy and Authenticity

Historical fiction writers emphasize thoroughly on historical accuracy. Mostly, this is a positive gesture and helps prevent mistakes. However, if they become too uncompromising, a unique problem of being too accurate can emerge.

For instance, writing lines of dialogue using Middle English might be too historically accurate to depict a scene from the middle ages; however, most readers will not wish to read such a historical novel.

The solution for this is called historical authenticity, which diverges from strict historical accuracy. It implies creating a sense of accuracy without necessarily imposing the full authenticity of it upon the reader.

This argument is particularly significant for language. With historical dialogue, you must avoid words and phrases that sound exceedingly modern and emphasize using neutral words that lie both in the modern-day and in earlier periods.

4. Conflict Between Historical and Modern Mindsets 

Ancient Romans believed it was all right to watch gladiators fight to the death, and the role of Europe in the slave trade was regarded as morally acceptable by several during that period.

In historical times, people held different ingrained values, views, and norms, many of which today would be considered narrow-mindedness, and some of them downright obnoxious.

Therefore, you should create characters that are historically accurate without frustrating modern readers. 

Often, historical fiction writers travel too far in one direction, either making all of their characters unrealistically forward-thinkers or portraying no sense of refinement or sensitivity in any issues.

Writers must understand that not all historical people reconciled to the prevailing beliefs of their time. Despite the slave trade being regarded as acceptable by many, a vocal lobby opposed it and eventually converted the masses to their cause. 

You can choose to include characters whose opinions countered the prevalent views of their time or whose lives did not fit into the typical fashion, as long as there exists a justification for it in history. 

Be sure to exhibit sensitivity, consider your use of language, and choose your battles. If you act respectful, sensible in your approach, and have conducted thorough research, most readers will recognize the authenticity of your depiction.

5. Over or Under-bending the Truth

This mistake committed by writers includes modifying timelines, portraying real-life historical figures doing stuff they did not do, or pitching in some dramatic events that might not strictly be rooted in fact.

The first thing to recognize and understand is that, whatever you do, some audience will always be annoyed. The most critical thing you must do is work out your own rules and adhere to them. 

Here is general guidance that you must consider -

  1. It is a wise idea to include a historical note at the end of your story, which explains where you have diverged from history and why. This step can disarm readers who have picked up an exception to specific decisions.
  2. Adopting legitimate interpretations that deviate from the existing knowledge is usually acceptable because history is susceptible to interpretation. There also exist several gaps in the historical documents, and it is reasonable to fill those gaps with plausible interpretations.
  3. If you are going to tweak a verifiable fact or invent something about a real figure, be sure that your reason is justifiable, the alteration is plausible, keep it to the bare minimum. Be aware that the more verifiable a historical event or figure is and the more central to history it is, the riskier it might be to change it.

If you are looking for an excellent book writing app, consider Josh Fetcher as it helps deliver optimum results and provides a plethora of customizations.

Final Words

While writing historical fiction, be sure to check this guide and adhere to the points mentioned above to try and impress a significant number of readers and widen your outreach.

You can easily get bewildered by the probability of committing one of these mistakes and letting that undermine your confidence and motivation. 

Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and even books by bestselling authors involve errors. 

Post a Comment