Not Just the Facts, Ma’am

Dear Readers,

If you are writing historical fiction, this article is very helpful.


You, too, can write historical fiction. Here are the steps I took to writing this first book, and it’s the same process I’ve used to write a book set in 1882 Florida, when I’d never even been to Florida until I was almost done writing this book. And it’s the same process for my 1860 Pony Express novella, my 1858 Oregon Trail novella, and my 1948 Colorado ranch story.

  1. Come up with an idea.      Don’t worry about the time period right now. Just come up with the story,      the plot, the characters.
  2. Decide on the time period      by making the setting and time period characters in the story. Ask where      these characters and setting fit best. Is this a story of lost love found?      Maybe World War II. Is this a story of going beyond what is comfortable?      Perhaps the setting should be 1850’s America during the Westward      Expansion. A story about faith that divides is well-set during the Civil      War.
  3. Narrow down the time frame      by doing some research on what else was going on in the area and the world      during these years. For example, if traveling by stagecoach instead of      train is integral to the plot, set the book before the Transcontinental      train is completed.
  4. Then read everything you      can lay your hands on set in that time period. I like to get books from      the children’s library, since they contain the most important facts. I      search out diaries, newspaper accounts, archives, anything written in the      time period.
  5. Watch movies set in that      time. If your book is set in the 1900’s, watch movies made in that time      period.
  6. When at all possible,      visit the place where your book is set. Online research, reading, and      movies are all great sources of information, but there is nothing like      standing on the actual site. For example, I’d heard that in Florida the      air is so humid you feel as if you’re drinking each breath. I didn’t      understand that until I stood in the middle of a swamp in Florida,      listening to the insects and birds, drinking the air.


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