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Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Historical Romance the Wright Way




Writing Historical Romance the Wright Way

by Jacqueline Seewald

Historical romance is part history and part romance. It’s important to do thorough research so that the history comes alive. Your setting must be authentic. Read about how people actually lived in that era, absorbing a variety of vivid details. Also, read many historic romances set in the particular time period. Before I wrote TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, I’d read hundreds of Regency romances.

That brings me to another important point: don’t set your novel in an era unless you find it fascinating. In addition, if you can find them, it’s a good idea to read diaries of real people who lived in those times.

Good reference sources are books that describe everyday life as people actually lived it during the time period. When you write, try to avoid anachronisms, things that are out of place time-wise. Shakespeare got away with it, but none of us have his reputation!

Historical accuracy and authenticity are important. However, watch out for including too much history in your novel. You don’t want to bore your readers. Remember, this is a romance novel first and foremost. Keep your story focused on your hero and heroine. The plot line has to follow the development of their relationship.

Regarding dialog, you don’t want to use modern phrasing. Yet you don’t want to use dialog that’s stiff or stilted either. Regency romance, for instance, has its own vocabulary. You really have to become familiar with it if you plan to write one. When you name characters, try to give them names that are appropriate to the era as well. Avoid anything too modern.

I hope these suggestions prove helpful to your writing. Comments and questions are always welcome!

For an example of a sensual romance set in the Regency era, you can check out
TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Tea-Leaves-and-Tarot-Cards/Jacqueline-Seewald/e/9781594149146/?itm=1

http://rdsinc.com/servlet/ItemDetailServlet?region=9&imprint=000&titleCode=TP907&cf=p&type=3&id=251513

http://www.amazon.com/Leaves-Tarot-Cards-Jacqueline-Seewald/dp/1594149143/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285526889&sr=1-1


16 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

great advice! i've done one historical type novel and i have great admiration for anyone who does it all the time!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

This is my first published historical romance, Pauline, but I've actually written a number of others that I hope will be published in the future. It does take a lot of painstaking research. And then you have to make certain not to lose the main romantic focus.

barbaraross said...

I've never had the nerve to do an historical. How did you choose your time period? Is it because Regency romances are classic or are you particularly drawn to those times?

Loretta said...

Very good information Jacqueline:)

I have one that hasn't published yet, but is doing well with pitching. Finding just the right balance in the story is as you said, part of the trick:) Knowing that history, and trying to let it flow naturally is a fine balancing act:)

I enjoyed this very much:)

Loretta Wheeler

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Barbara,

In answer to your question, I like all kinds of romance and mystery fiction. But I've always had an affinity for Regency romance.
I think it has something to do with having taught Brit Lit for a number of years. I was drawn to Jane Austen's novels.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Loretta,

I would compare historical romance with romantic suspense in that both genres balance other elements. It's tricky. But we always have to remember that the romance dominates.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Jacqueline: Earlier today, I read a post by Elizabeth Chadwick, who writes medieval. Her post was about the same subject, and she cautioned that even the early chroniclers disagree about dates and events and all we can do is be as true to the period and characters as we can. Good post.

Celtic Chick said...

I agree with you on the dialog. I hate reading something that is too authentic with the dialect so much so that it is frustrating to read. It's better to use certain words for the time period and some dialect so that it is easier to read. Even then, there will still be the picky readers that wanted it to be more authentic.

zohra said...

My novel is also set in the past - albeit not quite as far back in time as the Regency Period and it was very hard getting source material, as not much is written about Bahrain in the 1930s. These days with the Internet it is so much easier getting hold of esoteric periods in strange places. Do you feel that just going with your gut, sometimes works too? BTW I didn't get the pun on Writing Historical Romance the Wright way - whose name is Wright?

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Joyce,

I will look up Elizabeth Chadwick's post. I wrote one short story set in the Medieval period and it was published, but it did involve a lot of research.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Celtic Chick,

I do think dialog is the hardest thing to get right in historical novels, romance or otherwise. We can read Jane Austen, for instance, to get a sense of the Regency period. But a lot of the dialog must ultimately be how we imagine it. We just have to avoid the tendency to become too verbose as people then would likely talk as casually as we do now. But vocabulary would differ.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Zohra,

I wrote some fiction and nonfiction a few years back for a publication in Bahrain--WOMAN THIS MONTH--you might try contacting their e-mail and asking if they have some research suggestions. It's worth a try.

Rebbie Macintyre said...

Good guidance for historical fiction, Jacqueline--thanks! I especially like your point about giving characters appropriate names for the era. There are several good resources for finding popular names throughout history. I googled for the information while writing my historical, and like most things on the web, there turned out to be a slew of resources! Thanks for the post.

Leslie Wheeler said...

Excellent advice, Jacqueline, especially the part about not overloading your book with too much history, something I've been guilty of in early drafts of my "living history" mysteries.
I thank my writers critique group, including Barbara Ross, whose comment appears above, for helping me curb this tendency, which is a carry-over from my days as a history textbook writer.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Rebbie,

I do see a number of writers who give modern names to their characters that aren't appropriate and it does detract at least for me from the story. You're right about there being lots of valuable resources on the web these days. I for one appreciate it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Leslie,

I also have to edit myself carefully. I get too involved with the history. I don't have a critique group but I can see where it would be very helpful.