Over the weekend, I took a break from editing book 1 to work on a short story that’s been haunting me since 2007. It’s totally different from everything else I’ve ever written (read: it takes place in modern times and is a little gritty). I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything with it, but I thought it would be a nice change of pace. And it was.
But what surprised me most is that it gave me a whole new appreciation for historical fiction (HF). HF and fantasy are all I’ve ever tried to write because, well, apparently I enjoy other time periods and worlds more than this one (I blame it on one too many past lives). In one weekend, I wrote more words than I usually do in twice that time, all because I was writing about my own time period. What did this teach me?
- It takes patience to write HF – You would think after 10+ years of research I would realize that, but I guess I’m a little slow. Until I wrote about my own time period, I didn’t realize how much of my time writing HF is taken up by second guessing word origin (i.e. time period and place), looking at maps to confirm geography, or fussing over some other detail to get things just right. These details are what make HF pop, but you don’t have to think about them as much when writing modern fiction – they just come because you have a natural frame of reference. It’s one thing to transport readers within their familiar world, but to take them somewhere else in time is completely different.
- Good HF looks deceptively easy – Why? A good HF writer (like any professional) makes it look effortless. But in reality, HF writers voluntarily become experts in their chosen time and place. That’s not something everyone (outside of historians and archeologists) can say. And why do we do it? Well, insanity is one possibility, but mostly it’s a labor of love.
- I wouldn’t want to do anything else – Yes, I can write modern fiction faster. But, there’s something about being able to bring the past to life that makes HF special and makes me want to keep doing it. (I have plans beyond Guinevere and Isolde, I’m just not ready to talk about them yet.) There’s something special about resurrecting lost voices or rescuing those on the brink of being forgotten. After all, we all want to think we’ll be remembered; perhaps helping others secure their place in history will somehow assure ours.
What do you think? If you write or read HF, what draws you to it?