We are in for a treat today. Author, Peter Leavell has writter a guest post for us. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Writing and studying history is like being a detective. You uncover a small article about your character that gives you a single word—which sends you to a website that includes an obituary listing the college your subject attended—and mentions the fact that your subject attended school with a famous person—plus a side note suggesting they raised Cain together—so you add the scene to your novel.
Then, because you’re a lover of history and words, you look up the etymology for “raising Cain.”
Just like a detective is relied upon to solve crimes, readers rely on authors to know their stuff. Gone are the days of forgiveness for missing a tiny fact just because it resides in an ancient volume trapped beneath a church cellar in rural Romania. No excuses. Put on that plaid hat, grab your pipe and magnifying glass, and start digging. But beware—the search is going to get messy and muddy.
Dig into books about the times and lives of your protagonist’s contemporaries, read your Bible, watch documentaries, listen to radio interviews, read your Bible, find primary documents, download diaries, read your Bible, and most of all, read your Bible.
Find key words, facts, dates, people, happenings and locations. Take notes. Did the event or events change the world or change individuals? Did your character facilitate the transformation? How was that character affected by the incident? Don’t know? Do what great detectives do—interview your character.
But how do you interview a dead character? Knowing them well enough to do an interview means reading their diaries, getting to know the people they know, and understanding the world through their eyes. Then ask them questions. But the answers might surprise you. You’re going to need some history and things about the world locked away in your head.
There’s nothing like a well-read sleuth remembering a bit of trivia he picked up while studying at Oxford that solves the case in the nick of time! To create a well-read character—or any character, for that matter, the author must be well-read. But to be well-read, you have to read. That’s all there is to it. Read classics, histories, science texts, popular fiction, how-to books—one right after the other. And read your Bible.
The greatest strength of the Internet is easy information. On the other hand, the drawback of the Internet is easy information. Typical print controls for published news, facts and opinions are not always enforced on the web. Be careful with what your sleuthing unearths. The “find” may be false.
As you read your Bible, study history, and follow current events, you’ll see how God has worked and is working through the ages. Seeing his plan in action and knowing Him as a Person will make you a better person and enrich your writing.
So grab your detective gear and get to work!
Writer- Historical Fiction
Winner of the 2011 Operation First Novel: Christian Writer’s Guild.
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.comand on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PeterLeavell.