Writing Historical Fiction

Here are my 6 top tips for writing historical fiction:

  • Be meticulous with your research. When gathering information about a particular period, look for more than one source. Not everything on the internet is gospel.
  • I write books set in Worthing. I know and remember some of the places but quite a lot of my characters are drawn from real people. I may have lifted them from another place or time, but I endeavor to keep the location in the book authentic.
  • Use more than one method of research. Old newspapers give us a snap shot of the attitude of the times. The Internet, (look for old interviews and personal experiences), non-fiction books and museums are a great source. Not everything is on show in a museum. I discovered someone’s wartime diary behind the scenes in my local library. (Gold dust!) If writing about a crime, pre-war newspapers reported court cases verbatim.
  • Don’t use everything you’ve discovered. It can make for tedious reading. Use what is relevant and don’t worry about the bits you have to leave out. They won’t be wasted. There’s always book two.
  • Check, check and check again. The reader will pick up your mistakes. You may have to be prepared for a little frustration as well. One of my characters was eating a Murray mint during the war. Someone gleefully corrected me on an Amazon review pointing out that Murray mints dated from the 1950’s. No, they didn’t. What he remembered was the jingle Murray mints, Murray mints, too good to hurry mints. The sweets themselves were introduced in 1944.
  • Be careful not to have your characters behaving by today’s standards. What happened back in the day might be shocking, but we cannot re-write history.