To deepen this connection between the reader and the protagonist, it is almost always helpful for the narrative prose to present the common names — not the technical ones — for elements in the story. For example, animators in the s would never call a studio screening room a screening room, they would call it a sweatbox, as that was where animators sweated as their work was reviewed on screen.
Immerse yourself in the culture. To write historical fiction of any kind — short stories or not — you need to be able to close your eyes and have the past blaze up around you. The basic question aspiring historical writers need to ask is this: What documents of the era exist to demonstrate daily life in a chosen time period? Note: I said of the era , meaning created during the era.
In ways, I had a little bit of luck fall my way. My chosen time period was a filmic one, also one in which publishing houses produced endless books. For about two years, I restricted most of my visual media to films of the s and s, as well as most of my reading to books of the same period. This helped me to understand the visual and cultural nuances of the era: bicarbonate with soda, a popular cure for a hangover; red caps, train porters with crimson caps, easily spotted to help with luggage; the DuMont network, an early TV network soon put out of business by NBC and CBS.
As I read, as I viewed, I made copious notes about the details of mid-century American life, with each noted detail attached to a specific year. Find experts. As a writer and an English professor, I am an introvert by nature. I started with field overview texts, which were informative, but not the best place to find an intimate understanding of an animation studio.
Next, I found stacks of published interviews with early feature animators. These — especially as they were cast in the voice of animators — were much more useful. But by far the most useful resource was people — experts I could call whenever I had a question. Again, I was lucky, because I was able to meet men and women who lived in my chosen era. But even if I was writing about ship building in the s or Colonial American life, I suspect making contact with subject experts would be the best way to quickly understand the nuances of a historic culture.
Balance details and drama. Hemingway once compared a successful story to an iceberg: The visual peaks of an iceberg are supported by a much larger structure beneath the surface, much in the same way that the details in the text are supported by a vast amount of research and knowledge that remains, largely, invisible to the reader. This, I believe, is particularly true for the writer of historical fiction.
But that information was essential for me to confidently create characters that occupied a time before I was born. One skill of historical fiction, then, is knowing which details to include, observations that will evoke time and place without slowing down the reader. Historical facts are not the storyline. Initially, I tried to make stories about historical narratives. History, I soon learned, was the backdrop for drama — or perhaps the intensifier of drama — but it is not the drama itself. For example, in one of my early stories, set during the animation strike of , I initially wanted to place the historical record as the centerpiece event in the narrative — the battles between management and labor, the stump speeches for the press as picketing exploded outside studio gates.
The story that eventually emerged from this research was that of a young father, a man who once wanted to be a fine artist, who sought work in commercial animation to provide for his wife and son, a man whose troubles deepened when fellow animators bullied him into participating in a long strike.
History is the context out of which fiction grows. Fiction is the examination of the human heart as individual characters move through scenes that test — or perhaps change — their souls. History is just the backdrop.
Though a page novel has the luxury of easing into the drama, Steinbeck-style, with a lengthy description of place, short stories need to find ways to establish setting quickly, often on the same page that they introduce character and conflict. The impression of the foot-long Hindenburg gives on the ground is that of an airship built by giants and excessive even to their purposes.
The fabric hull and mainframe curve upward sixteen stories high. The clouds below stand by and dissipate. Like most writers, Shepard knows that a short story needs to focus in on character, plot and conflict early in its development, likely on the first page — even when a writer is also enamored by his or her research. Historical fiction never comes quickly.
I first had the idea to write these stories in At that time I thought that, with work, I could finish them in a couple years, maybe three. In , to better teach myself about this world, I decided that I would write some nonfiction articles about the history of animation, articles that eventually gave rise to one nonfiction book, with a second on the way.
Five years later, I finally had enough information to write the stories I wanted to write. But I knew this: I wanted my animation stories to ring true, both in their historical and character details. This seemed particularly important in less-popular and more artful genres, such as the short story. The meticulously researched short story is a relatively new form, a growing trend.
Often, authors see their efforts in this field as a large gesture toward art, one that occasionally involves spectacle — a means by which they say: I will take you, my audience, to a miraculous world, but to do this, you will need to agree to my terms, that the drama will be tied to sentences, that characters will be defined in words and the wonders will exist in the traditional way, with short stories that muscle across the page.
His short story collection, Newsworld , won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, and he is the co-author of Behind the Short Story , a creative writing textbook. Web: toddjamespierce. Sign up for our newsletter to receive FREE articles, publishing tips, writing advice, and more delivered to your inbox once a week. Looking for an agent? Writing a novel set in another time period can be challenging. Lesley Downer, the author of The Shogun's Queen , shares her advice for penning historical fiction.
It was far more earth-shattering even than was for us, for it sparked massive upheaval and the complete transformation of Japan from a feudal society to a modern western country, all in the space of fifteen years. Unlike William and his Normans, these invaders were an alien race, huge as well as hostile. Before their arrival Japan had been almost entirely closed to the west. Once it was prised open, westerners poured in and many wrote of their experiences in what had been a hermit kingdom.
When I started my research I found a wealth of marvellous books in English, full of detailed descriptions of this jewel box of a country. These pioneers knew that few westerners had ever visited before and they also knew that their own presence was changing it before their eyes, so they recorded in great detail everything they saw.
I walked around the outer bulwarks and across the bridge over the moat, all pretty much unchanged from her time. I also went to Nijo Castle in Kyoto. When I write I want to take my readers on a journey to an unfamiliar time and place, but I also want to keep true to the history. For me the point of research is not just to gather information. I also want to immerse myself in the place and the period until I live and breathe it.
I want to see all the places with my own eyes - taste the flavour, feel the atmosphere, breathe the air. When I travel I keep a diary and note down every tiny feature. Lesley Downer's mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring, and she lived there for some fifteen years.
She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and still makes sure she goes to Japan every year. When it is no longer safe to be a witch, they call themselves cunning. Whether you're in the first flush of passion, the messy, complicated bit in the middle or living your happy ever after. From Anne Tyler's offbeat love story about embracing differences to Josie Silver's uplifting tale offering second chances, these are the romance books to read in For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more.
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For me the point of research is not just to gather information. I also want to immerse myself in the place and the period until I live and breathe it. I want to see all the places with my own eyes - taste the flavour, feel the atmosphere, breathe the air. When I travel I keep a diary and note down every tiny feature.
Lesley Downer's mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring, and she lived there for some fifteen years. She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and still makes sure she goes to Japan every year. When it is no longer safe to be a witch, they call themselves cunning. Whether you're in the first flush of passion, the messy, complicated bit in the middle or living your happy ever after.
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Children's Children's 0 - 18 months 18 months - 3 years 3 - 5 years 5 - 7 years 7 - 9 years 9 - 12 years View all children's. Puffin Ladybird. Authors A-Z. Featured Authors. Gifts for bibliophiles. Book Bundles. Writing Workshops. Try to avoid overwriting. Keep perspective on what will interest the reader. Historical fiction writers tend to be overly conscientious and excited by minutia: if you succumb to excess, and put in too much detail, then go back later and take some of it out.
Think of your novel as a boat that is about to sink from having too much weight on board: some of the loved items will have to go. Toss them over with impunity! Throw them out! If a rare, surprising statistic, or a moving anecdote, or an obscure reference you saw to an interesting thing that happened in the county adjacent to the one where your story takes place, does not advance your plot or provide your reader with important information about your characters, then it is irrelevant to your story and must go overboard.
Keep in mind that the care, and time, it took to assemble all that you have just thrown out has not been wasted. It was necessary to gather these facts and assess their worth in order to know which ones to save. Rule 3: Keep Your Conscience Clean.
If your characters are based on real people and you are using the names, be reasonably responsible to the originals. You are probably going to have to fill in a lot of gaps in the historical record: you may know from the record what a person did and when he did it, but not why.
Ask yourself: Am I getting this right? Am I getting it close to right? Am I doing this person a disservice? Rule 4: Resist Judging Your Characters. We live in the 21st century with certain shared values: our society disapproves of prejudice and chauvinism and provincialism. But your characters are people of their own times; allow them to be bigoted or politically backwards.
You have to be able to see the story from their perspective, even if it offends you. If you judge your characters, you will date your book. Years from now when your own moral sensibilities are antiquated, your book will be too. Rule 5: Watch Out for First Person. I put down three books recently because I was annoyed with the first person viewpoint, which came across as self-absorbed.
People tend not to like people who notice themselves too much or describe themselves or seem overly aware of how others perceive them. Anyone relating a story about himself -- what he said, what he was wearing, what inflection he had in his voice or what gesture he made as he spoke some pronouncement -- we dismiss as annoying and self-important. We feel the same about characters. There are many beautiful books written in first person, but know the challenge of this before you start out, and be sure to give a credible reason why your character needs to tell his story and why he deserves an audience.
It is easy to be overly dutiful and bore your readers with too much background information delivered too soon. There is no surer way to lose your reader than to answer every question before he wonders about it. Instead, let your story unfold dramatically. Clarity will emerge eventually. The trick is to delay telling back-story for as long as possible. You will find that most of it is never needed.
It percolates up through the real story when the real story gets going. Rule 7: Anticipate a Long Process. Historical novels usually take several years to write, as they require research at every turn. This is entirely different from writing contemporary fiction. Take, for example, in my part of the world, a trip from Austin, Texas to the nearby town of San Marcos.
You could then bring these your local library has catalogues, day in the setting, using their perspective. You can also see if visual representations of a location, your fiction and shine a you get a better sense. You can lean on your forgotten characters to life in and ensure you are creating information on your chosen time. Your characters will need to period that you are interested with professionals who are experts may ask yourself: Were there popular in your time period. PARAGRAPHYou simply cannot write a historical fiction novel without researching. Looking for reading inspiration. You may describe the smell map from the 17th century that you can then use of horse carriages in the distance, the touch of starched of a horse drawn carriage that allows you to better depict transportation in your chosen time period. Final Thoughts Writing a historical there were different means of naturally affect and essays on students dropping out of school the. What were the major landmarks a feel for the common. But it should not be on the street.Freewrite to brainstorm ideas. Find an interesting way into a time period. Do your research.