Wednesday, May 18, 2011


by C. LaRene Hall

Remember that at the writing conference I'm typing as fast as I can and I didn't get everything. The second class I attended and the one that helped me most is the following one. It's long because there was so much info I was interested in, so I'm dividing it in half.

The Tightrope: Researching and Writing Credible Historical Fiction: LC Lewis

Where Do You Begin?

You create what is real with what is fiction. Make sure you pick something you love.
Historical fiction is a fascinating challenging genre. You are facing two pools of readers.

1. Those who want an engaging story with a little history thrown in.
2. Those who live history with a little story flowing through.

Striking the right balance between fact, and fictional content, is the challenge. You will never get everyone happy. Choose a subject, setting, or person you already love and know a lot about, or choose a subject, setting, or person you’re excited to research.

1. What do you already love?
2. What would you like to know more about?
3. Who are you writing for? Historians? History lovers? Readers with an interest in your topic?
4. What do you want to tell your readers?
5. Why are you writing this story?
6. What nugget of history?
7. What theme?
8. What character is compelling you, and why?

Define your project by writing a backlines-type summary and a comprehensive summary and read them often. It needs a basic plot, viewpoint characters; his/her story goal, primary opponent/opposition, and what he wants, or how it affects your POV character.

Create a base line – it may change – it is your anchor. Don’t sweat the small stuff – you are taking people on a journey. If you are not accurate, you will lose their trust. Decide to remain credible by keeping the research accurate. Get the facts right: dates, times, and details. Make sure your facts are correct. There are some things that you can verify but sometimes things are conflicting. POV are sometimes different. You need multiple accounts because some of them will be conflicting. That will keep you credible. Prove your point. Make sure you can back up what you say. You need to put your readers in an event with the correct details.

Get ready. Get set. Get organized. Have a plan to organize every contact, book, periodical, web site, etc. before you begin researching.

Keep organized – some things can’t be verified. The truth is most of our history is skewed. It primarily reflects the accounts of people who were literate, wealthy, white, which was a small portion of historic America. You may find a record that differs from the norm. Letters are treasures, but they are opinions and their details frequently can’t be verified.

Source notes maintain a running excel or word file of notes. Use the favorites or bookmark option on your computer for online sources. Online addresses often change. Label everything for easy recognition. Group them for quick access for efficiency.

Character Bibles

Keep your characters clear and consistent by defining them. You don’t want your hero to be light-skinned on one page and then refer to his clear, tanned torso on another.
Make it easy to refer to often

Descriptive written out with detail visual – compare your character to someone who readily comes to mind. Back it up with written details.

Today’s reader became so annoyed with the persons actions – it is a fine line – keep their values but you are writing to readers now.

Have an idea of where your story is going. How will your characters evolve over time? Research and give them realistic representations in your script. Know everything.

Come back next week for Part Two.

1 comment:

Weaver said...

Great information there. How does all that work for discovery writers?