Hinds Drugstore, Arab, Alabama
If you have a passion for reading books by the boatload set in a bygone era, spending your vacations in historical museums and peering into basements of dusty old buildings; if your thoughts wrap around that long-ago time so often that you find yourself actually dreaming you’re riding in a carriage, or speaking archaic words in phrases like ‘come hither’; if your favorite movies are scenes taken from those past eras, truthfully played out with characters properly dressed for the period; if your favorite conversations are with historians and archivists and curators with like passion for the past, then just maybe you’re ready to write an historical novel.
First though, let me differentiate between nonfiction historical accounts— historical narratives and memoirs—and fictionalized history. If you wish to give your characters life and breath and bones, making them come alive to readers and evoking their emotions, you need to write fictionalized history known as a novel.
Having your characters speak in conversations is termed fiction. Who knows how they reacted or what was said in 1857? It matters not that you use the actual names of real people, and bring out facts swept under a rug for centuries. Characters having conversations in your book classifies the work as fiction. Now that you have made a decision to write a novel, you are free to create supporting characters, making them as colorful and memorable as possible.
Even while you’re writing historical fiction, keep the work as near to truth as possible, including events which are current to the place and time. While readers relish in a well-written story, they will also learn. Consider writing in first person present tense. This places the reader into the scene, brings a sense of immediacy.
If you truly have a passion for history, and are inspired by a well-known person from the past or ancestor to write their story, you will find a large community of like persons, encouraging support in online forums and discussion groups. Maybe I’ll meet you along the way to your publication? Enjoy the journey.