Historical Fiction - Accuracy vs. Readability by Paula Rose Michelson

Dear Friends,

Before you read the article titled, Historical Fiction - Accuracy vs. Readability, I must share that if you were disappointed that I reposted two previous articles, so was I. Although it was never my intent to do this, working through the galley proof of Casa de Naomi, in a timely fashion meant choosing between reposting or missing my self imposed deadline, which had to be adhered to if the novel was to be available on the dot coms before the holidays. Since this is the beginning of September, my concern may seem odd to you. However, the publisher informed me that they must have a published book before they begin the process, which takes three months to complete. So I did the math, and made sure that Casa de Naomi was in the mail on September 1st praying all the while that the necessary corrections will be done quickly enough for the novel to available by mid November.

Working through a galley proof in two weeks, instead of the month I was given, was a feat of endurance I would have never undertaken if the Ruach Ha Kodesh was not directing me. However, the Holy Spirit filled me, and gave me the energy to work 40 hours with only 10 hours of sleep.

Last Thursday Corrine and I prayed over the manuscript, and then mailed it to Tate Publishing. It has taken several days for my feet to hit terra firma because of the excitement of that moment which was four years in the making, and the powerful anointing I received while we prayed.

So here we are, seven days later. I am praising the Lord, and ask you to join me as I pray that this novel and the other novels in the Casa Saga accomplish Gods purpose.

Yours in Messiah,
Paula Rose Michelson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Historical Fiction - Accuracy vs. Readability~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Several years ago, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers because I knew I needed to communicate with published authors, and writers who want to publish, as a means of visualizing my goal of becoming a published author. A few months later, I joined an on line chat for historical fiction writers and authors. Becoming a member of this group has proven invaluable to me for we affirm and support each other. Since this unique genre requires skills and hours of research, that other fiction does not, having people to discourse with about my craft has bolstered me up. I have spent hours isolated while researching little known facts, and been blessed to share my journey with others who need to hear that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

All of this might sound as boring as dirt to you. However, without perusing every conceivable link that could yield information, the author of historical fiction has possibly done a shoddy job making her work a potential target of ridicule. Writing historical fiction is not for the faint of heart.

Both this and last month’s writers loop, focused on several things historical writers deal with. Since I found the discourse stimulating, I hope you will enjoy reading my synopsis of what I read, which affirmed me and my work.


Question: How do you handle it when writing things in a historically accurate manner makes it difficult to read by a modern day reader?


• There is a fine line between the historical accuracy needed to set the stage and pull your reader into the setting. Write so the reader can see the story unfolding in their minds eye, but refrain from being so accurate that you lose the reader because the story is shrouded in history that it creates a barrier making it impossible for the reader to identify with the characters.

• When being historically accurate creates a barrier between your reader and your characters, you may have become too historically accurate.

• If the language is too stilted or obscure it is difficult to read.

• Having read hundreds of books in my genre, I have gotten a feel for the dialogue of the era and that seems to give me the words.

• When looking at the language of a period, for example the 18th century, many wonder about using contractions. Researchers discovered that contractions were used throughout the history of the English language, and are found in the fiction of the mid-18th century.

Question: When does using the terminology of the period make reading what I have written so difficult to read that I might lose my audience?

• Most people who pick your novel are going to know exactly what these words mean because they read historical fiction.

• Research your work, and read fictions written in the period your story is set in.

• Write so that your reader will get lost in the story, merging with the time-period that the story takes place in. However, be careful that there is nothing jarring in the text because that can bring them back to the present.

• Use enough archaic language so the reader relates to the time-period, and knows that the characters do not talk quite as we do.

• When using archaic, or a foreign language, one needs to make sure that there is enough context around the word for the reader to be able to figure out the words meaning.

• Read a book aloud that is set in the same time and location. Then read your text aloud.


By now you might be wondering why none of the questions sighted dealt with hidden populations like the Sephardic Jews I researched, or noticed that I posted no questions or answers about any of the authors’ research into historical data. The reason, dear friends, is that when it comes to research my work differs from all the others. When they were asking historical questions about the pioneer days, or looking for information on the First and Second World War, my needs differed from theirs so completely that to give you an overview of what they were asking bears little resemblance to the work I did. However, I would love to tell you all, and since that would make to long an article, please send me an email inviting me to visit and I will share more of my journey than this blog could ever contain.
Category: 1 comments


Anonymous said...

A tour de force! Keep up the good work!

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