Guest Post: Patricia Leslie on "Rebuilding Past Worlds"

November 22, 2016

If you're like me and enjoy a bit of history with your fiction, then you’re probably interested in the research side of writing as well. There are three important factors in writing historical fiction; the level of accuracy, level of detail, and character development in a time gone by.

If you're going to include facts that can be checked make sure you check them yourself first. Sure as shooting, if you don't and you're wrong someone will take great pleasure in letting you know. Also, it interrupts the flow of reading and you want your Reader’s total involvement from page 1 to page end. Avoid this by checking your sources. Primary sources are best, but that's not always possible so creditable secondary sources are the next best thing especially if you can find several and they all agree.

When it comes to detail I go for way more than I will need so that I am generally informed on a topic. I find this helps the storytelling. It also gives me other topics to write about for articles and short stories. The vast majority of that detail is kept away from the story. Exposition can be so boring and can make the writer sound like a know it all. Readers want stories not an over abundance of fact.

For characters to move freely around the world you've recreated, they need to respond in a natural way to everything that their time period throws at them. This means the writer needs to know about clothes, the look of the buildings and streets, current affairs, rules and regulations, and customs.

 It's a lot to learn, but looking up old maps and heritage buildings can give you streetscapes, layout and the feel of architecture and interior design. Local government and State archive websites are great for this.

For fashion, I research online through Pinterest (check out my board for my current work) and go to exhibitions of vintage clothing so I can really get up close to see fabric and style detail and colour.

For dialogue and writing styles, old newspapers and journals can give you a gist for language and its uses, and stories written in the time period (1700s onward in particular) are great for picking up the nuances as well as localised observations. But don't take them as a primary source. They can be a window into the past but are not history textbooks.

Here's my recommended reading list for Australian research based in the 1800s:

·       Lady Audley’s Secret (not Australian but a good read, free and something a little different from Jane Austen)
·       Trove (newspapers, journals, books, images)
·       National Trust Australia
·       Dove Maps of Sydney

These may not be the period or location you're interested in but they show just a glimpse of what is easily found online.

Patricia Leslie is an Aussie urban fantasy author with Odyssey Books. Her novels, TheOuroboros Key, and, A Single Light, deal with the major issues of today like mystical
magical beings living deep in Colorado's Rocky Mountains and hungry vampire-like spiritsdevouring the population of southern Sydney. Evil powers abound in her next novel set in
Sydney and Scotland in the 1800s. Patricia enjoys the research as much as the writing so payno mind to middle aged women with cameras wandering around Sydney. It could very wellbe Patricia Leslie hunting down heritage buildings and their stories.

Drop in on Patricia's strand of the World Wide Web and catch up on her adventures or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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