Thursday, May 27, 2010


Historical fiction is one of my loves--I guess that's why my first children's book is in the genre. I've always loaded up on stories about history at the library or in bookstores--starting in childhood with Little Women, the Little House books, Caddie Woodlawn and the like-- and the pattern has carried over to writing.

But here's the problem--at least my problem--in writing historical fiction: TMI.

Yes, TMI as in "too much information." Not  too much in relation to research, getting the facts straight, being true to the period, representing life as it was in the particular era--that's the first thing historical fiction writers will address. You've got to know who your character is, where she fits in to her time frame, where she comes from. But most of what has been researched, catalogued, stuffed in the brain--if used--will be an overload. What we're looking for here is story--a good one. Not a history lesson. So I'm open to inspiration in dealing with the problem. Here are a few words on the subject:

"The best research doesn't do any good if you can't tell a great story--gripping for children, who are often interested in things that we aren't, and bored by things that we think are keep them reading."--Jennifer Jensen, Suite 101

"When we convey dialect, we should use a light touch to keep the text readable and so as not to parody our characters. In historical work, the dialog shouldn't be too historical-- a few thees and thous go a long way." --Paula Fleming, 

"The good historical novel is the wise selection of the right fact for the right effect. It doesn't surfeit the reader by too much information, it doesn't starve them with too little." --Caro Clarke,

And perhaps the most helpful words of all come from Ann Rinaldi, author of over 40 historical books including The Second Bend in the River and Nine Days a Queen:

"...and so it is that historical fiction writers build on facts and take the leap of imagination..."

Yes--imagination! The big key. I'm so ready to drop my TMI overload and take the leap.

Wanna' go with me?


  1. This is such a great point, whether writing for children or adults. I love historical too, and they can be tricky to write. Thanks for sharing this!
    Have a blessed weekend,

  2. Love the tips! Researching for a historical can be a bit daunting but fun too.

    BTW, just bought some Little House books yesterday. Cannot wait to reread them! They have Little House picture books for younger children too. Love them and so does my three year old.