In August I’m giving a talk at the SCBWI Summer Conference entitled “The Ten Commandments of [Writing] Historical Fiction [forYoung Readers].” Here’s a sample:
- Thou shalt not repeat falsehoods. Don’t say that Columbus took his voyage west to prove that the world was round; don’t say that spices were used in the Middle Ages to prevent food from rotting. Both are false.
- Thou shalt not show off. You found an intriguing fact—great! But if it isn’t necessary for your story, don’t cram it in.
- Thou shalt remember that “historical” is an adjective; thou art writing fiction. Don’t forget character development, good pacing, interesting dialogue—everything that makes a story a good story, historical or not.
I have seven more (including the obvious, such as getting your facts straight) but maybe there are things that irritate others that haven’t occurred to me. So tell me, readers of historical fiction—what bugs you when you read a novel set in the past? What makes you roll your eyes and shut the book—or hurl it across the room?
Best comment received by July 20 earns its writer a copy of my young-adult historical novel Dark of the Moon!