Writing Historical Novels, Part One: What is the Difference? #historical #amwriting #writing

In gearing up for my lectures in the 2019 Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference, I’ve decided to take the rest of the year to dedicate this blog to the two topics I plan to speak on.

One of them is the “Elements and Rules of Writing Historical Novels” and the other one is “The Best of Both Worlds: Being a Hybrid Author.”

That’s right! For the next 20 weeks I will dive into the not only the world of writing Historical novels, but also in what it’s like being a hybrid author. I hope to provide a ton of information for you, so be sure to check back every week for the next installment.

Now *clasps hands together* what is the first series I will share?

“Elements & Rules of Historical Novels”

Why does one read Historical novels? More often than not it’s because they enjoy a book that brings the past to life, and as authors of Historical novels it’s our job to do just that. From the first word to the last word, we should strive to teleport our readers to another time and place, and when such is done with an amazing story, it can be one heck of a ride.

Historical novels draw readers into another time. A time in our history that people may have forgotten about. A time when life was vastly different from how it is now. A time when people perhaps didn’t have electricity, fought in wars for their country, panned for gold, lived among Dukes and Duchesses, battled rival clans for Highland lands, or explored a new frontier either on foot or with Viking long ships.

I’ve heard talk over the years that Historical novels just aren’t popular, and that it’s an overlooked genre. I’m here to say that is not the case. Historical novels are popular and they do have a place in the book world.

So, for this first part in the series, I’m going to talk about the different sub genres of Historical novels.

What is the difference between the sub genres of Historical novels?

  • Historical Romance (HR) is a romance novel that the storyline focuses on the developing relationship between the two main characters—if the romance is taken out, there is no more story—and it ends with a happy/joyful union, or a “Happily Ever After” (HEA) between the two.
  • Historical fiction (HF) is a story that takes place in a historical setting with historical events. The story is more about the effects of that setting and events on the characters. There might be a romance that occurs in the story, but it’s a subplot.
  • Historical Fantasy is the same as Historical Fiction or Historical Romance, but has fantasy or paranormal elements to it such as characters that are vampires, witches and wizards, werewolves, fairies, dragons, or any other mythical creatures. These stories still are set on Earth in our own real time periods.
  • Alternate Historical novels consist of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently. These stories usually contain “what if” scenarios at crucial points in history and present outcomes other than those in the historical record. The stories are conjectural, but are sometimes based on fact.
  • Historical Mysteries Historical are mysteries or “historical whodunits” are set by their authors in the distant past, with a plot that which involves the solving of a mystery or crime (usually murder).

So how did you get started in the Historical genre and which is your favorite era to write?

I’ve always joked that when I started writing, the genre picked me, I didn’t pick the genre. With my love of history, of course, the question of what I would write was answered within a second of sitting down to my computer and starting. I’d love to say I have a favorite time period, but honestly, I don’t. I write about so many because so many interest me. With the amount of research that goes into my novels, I have to pick time periods that I enjoy reading about. That’s why I have so many.

While my titles, The Woman on the Painted Horse, In the Land of Gold, As the Liquor Flows, and A Road Paved in Copper are Historical Romance, my title When the Black Roses Grow could actually be considered as Historical Fantasy or even Historical Romance with Paranormal Elements. My publisher has set it as a Historical Romance, though. My current work-in-progress, Through the Eyes of a Captive is a Historical Romance, however, it boarders Historical Fiction. If I took out the romance, I could still have a story. It would change the plot, but it “could” work. With that said, I plan on keeping it a Historical Romance.

Be sure to check out the other parts of this series:

Elements to Historical Fiction and Historical Romance

Rules for Historical Fiction and Historical Romance

  • Research, Research, Research
  • Fact vs Fiction
  • Personal Beliefs & Authenticity
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5 Comments on “Writing Historical Novels, Part One: What is the Difference? #historical #amwriting #writing

  1. Does time travel fall under historical if they travel to the past?

    I hate doing research. You’re so good at it. I’ll read these to learn from you.

    My WIP takes place in the 1950’s & 1960’s. I do not transport people into history like you do. I love how I feel like I’m living in the past with your characters. My genre for this one is difficult to pinpoint, probably spirituality with magical realism. It’s not a romance, but there are a couple of romances that are subplots. The spirituality is the main focus of the characters.

    • Time Travel would be under the genre of Time Travel, although, could be under the label of Historical also. Outlander is under Historical Romance even though it’s time travel and more historical than romance. I don’t know what yours would fall under, now knowing the whole story. Have you researched it? Inspirational, maybe? The magic will give it paranormal twists. To publish you will need to lock that down.

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