No matter what decade we live in, we all love to watch a film that dives into the past now and then. I’m the type of writer who likes to write about the present or future, just to take off all the limits, which is why I give special credit to writers of the past. What I mean by that are not those born in the time period they wrote about, even if at present we consider it “the past”, but those that had to look back at history and write about it without having experienced it. Let’s face it, while we all might enjoy it, not all of us can write it. Historical writing takes two things: a love of history and lots and lots of research.
Here are some things to look for in a quality story set in the past:
1) Details, details, details: The fun thing in writing about a certain era is that while you have to do research, you get lots from it. You have to find out the dialect, the clothing, the architecture, and even the behavior that was appropriate at the time. A book that does a fine job of this is Lady of Devices. I can’t imagine how much research the author did, but it truly feels like you’re in that time, surrounded by the jargon and intricate details of what we now call the steampunk era. The Artist is another good one.
2) Dialogue: This is going to sound obvious, but all of your characters actually have to sound like they come from that time period, not modern actors thrown into an ancient setting. And giving them a British accent isn’t enough. A few great examples: Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Borgias, Hugo
3) Propriety: You have to conform to the times. If certain behavior wasn’t appropriate in the time period you’re writing about, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to do without, but you’re going to have to accommodate with the consequences. Other times, you’ll experience the opposite, where more was allowed than in our modern times. Some examples: Dorian Gray, The Other Boyelyn Girl, Goya’s Ghosts
Other great historical stories to visit are: The Night Circus, The Prestige, The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean, Elizabeth, etc.
Do you know of any other great stories set in the past? Or are you daring enough to attempt one of your own?
-The Story Addict