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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Historical Fiction: Not What I Expected-Part 3

For the final post in this series, I want to talk about the subject of Tricia Goyer's post. She talks about research and the amount that goes into historical fiction. She says most historical fiction authors research way too much and that too many historical details can weigh down your narrative.

I must say I disagree on the subject of too much research. I don't think a person can EVER do enough! Even if it doesn't end up going into the novel, you're still learning stuff. In my opinion, any amount of time and effort that goes into learning (especially about history!) is time well spent. And you never know when you'll be able to work in some little, salient detail that will make your manuscript downright magical.

Granted, when it comes to historical research, the amount of work tends to far outweigh the payoff, but still...

Tricia is right, though, that too many details CAN be the death of your manuscript. Like her, I see too many amateur authors trying to put chunks of their 10th grade history book into their novels. It's not unlike greenie authors who try to dump unending paragraphs of back story on their readers all at once. It must be worked in slowly, and with finesse. The same is true of historical details.

In a way, you should write the book as though the audience already knows the historical details. If your MC is part of the imperial court, they probably don't stop to explain the court's goings-on to themselves every day. Of course you must make sure your reader understands, but this is best done through your character's actions and dialogue, with as little exposition as possible. Otherwise, it feels like your character is stopping to give the audience a Shakespeare-esque monologue on something that's just another part of their everyday lives.

In that way, crafting a historical setting isn't much different than crafting any other kind.

What do you think? Do you think a historical setting would be harder to work with than a contemporary one? Do you think one can ever do too much research?

Below is an EXCERPT from my forthcoming novel, Citadels of Fire:

*Excerpt removed at publisher's request. Look out for Citadels of Fire, forthcoming September 2013*

What do you think of this excerpt?


  1. Oh, wow, I LOVE the excerpt! So action packed, and that last line is perfect! I completely agree about historical research--you can never do enough, but not all of it should be dumped into your manuscript.

    1. Thanks Meredith! Good to see you--uh, talk to you. You know what I mean! :D Happy Wednesday! :D

  2. First-class excerpt Liesel. You really know how to paint a picture with words.

  3. Great excerpt! The last line left a great impact on me as a reader.

    I agree with what you said about historical research - I want the author to know their stuff, but I also don't want to be bogged down with details everywhere. If it's written as if it's actually taking place during that time period, then the story will flow naturally and keep a reader hooked.

    1. I agree! Thanks for stopping by Cheyanne! :D