When I first started writing fiction, I didn’t think much about accuracy. I mean, come on, it’s fiction for crying out loud! Aren’t things supposed to be made up? Isn’t that what the word fiction implies?
Ignoring fact might work for fantasy, but not for historical fiction. You’ll be crucified for errors. There’s just no getting around it. Research is key, whether you pen contemporary or way-back-when tales. Why? Because it’s jolting to a reader when they come across something they know for a fact and see it misrepresented.
There are many ways to go about fact-finding. Here are some . . .
Reading is the most common format to ferret out information. Before and during the writing of The Captive Heart, I did LOTS of reading. I picked up books on the Carolina frontier during the 1770’s and read like crazy. To stay true to the era and the area, I had to delve into lots of sometimes dry, historical non-fiction. Yawn. Let’s just say I drank lots of coffee.
Writers make up lots of things all the time, but honestly, it helps if you can visit the area you’re writing about—even if that area has changed over the years. I had a blast touring South Carolina and hiking the same trails that my hero and heroine would’ve roamed. Granted, the land is far different vegetation-wise than the era I wrote in, but I still got the feel for the rolling hills and the smells. If you want to add real-life touches to your stories, I highly recommend you visit the areas you’re writing about.
I’m a city girl. That means I don’t know which end of a horse is up—and horses were the mode of transportation back in colonial America. I couldn’t have done this without the aid of my rural writing buddies. There’s a lot to the handling and care of a horse that I didn’t know about.
The lesson here is that you’ve got to do your homework . . . but don’t let your research cripple you. You can’t be 100% perfect down to the last detail. Simply stay as true to the period you write in as possible.
Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: THE CAPTIVE HEART, BRENTWOOD’S WARD, A HEART DECEIVED, UNDERCURRENT and GALLIMORE, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or www.writerofftheleash.blogspot.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
ABOUT THE BOOK ~ THE CAPTIVE HEART
The wild American wilderness is no place for an elegant English governess.
On the run from a cruel British aristocratic employer, Eleanor Morgan escapes to America, the land of the free, for the opportunity to serve an upstanding Charles Town family. But freedom is hard to come by as an indentured servant, and downright impossible when she’s forced to agree to an even harsher contract—marriage to a man she’s never met.
Backwoodsman Samuel Heath doesn’t care what others think of him—but his young daughter’s upbringing matters very much. The life of a trapper in the Carolina backcountry is no life for a small girl, but neither is abandoning his child to another family. He decides it’s time to marry again, but that proves to be an impossible task. Who wants to wed a murderer?
Both Samuel and Eleanor are survivors, facing down the threat of war, betrayal, and divided loyalties that could cost them everything, but this time they must face their biggest challenge ever . . . Love.