On Writing Historical Fiction

A Guest post from Laura Perry

Fiction is an interesting beast. It’s imaginary but also real. You can take a real-world setting and make up characters to go in it. You can make up the world as well, if you like, though some portion of it needs to be relatable to the reader, perhaps in the form of some of your characters being human.

Either way, the intersection of the real and the imagined creates the spark of the story. I’ve written two novels set in the known world, one in Central America and one near where I live in the southeastern US. Both had magical aspects to the story, and one had magical/supernatural characters as well. Still, both novels take place in the current time, in the world I’ve spent my whole life in. It’s familiar territory, in a sense, a world I share with my readers.

Then I decided to write historical fiction. That turns out to be a different beast altogether, with its own set of issues.

My novel is set on the Mediterranean island of Crete, among the ancient Minoans. They were a Bronze Age culture that flourished from about 3000-1400 BCE. Now, the Minoans are a subject I’ve studied for years. Decades, even. But when I started writing this book, I discovered just how much I don’t know, how much no one knows about the details of daily life and religion in ancient Crete.

So I filled in the blanks with educated guesses. That’s what every author does when they’re writing historical fiction. And I feel the weight of every one of those guesses, because there’s a thing that happens with any kind of historical fiction, whether it’s in the form of a book, a television show, or a movie: people take it as actual history. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many people get their history more from television than from the books they were supposed to read in school.

So this book took me a long time to write. That was partly because the story is heart-wrenching and I felt like part of my soul was being ripped out with each chapter. But it was also partly because I had to weigh every detail, consider every possibility as I built the world the action takes place in. I’m sure I’m wrong about some of it; that’s just how history and archaeology are. More information comes to light later on and we recognize our mistakes.

But in the meantime, I’d like to remind everyone that historical fiction is just that: fiction, even if it is framed with known facts and archaeological evidence. Historical fiction is a marvelous romp through another time and place, via the imagination of the writer. So enjoy it for what it is: a story about humanity, about the issues we’ve all faced through the generations. Some things never change.

 

Find out more about Laura’s Minoan novel here – : http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-last-priestess-of-malia

 

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

One response to “On Writing Historical Fiction

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