Have you ever imagined what it might be like to live in a different time period?
As a writer of historical novels, I've had to think deeply about what it might have been like to live in another era. When I'm writing a story set one hundred years or more ago, I try to imagine what my characters would have been seeing around them, how they would have been living on a day to day basis. I want to make my stories real. I want my characters to react to situations in era-appropriate ways. And I want them to speak without Twenty-First Century catch phrases.
If my character is a boy in 1880s New York City (A Partner's Promise), what does he see when he is on the streets? Is there an automobile anywhere? A streetcar? What does an ambulance look like or a fire wagon? Are the street lights gas or electric? What race or ethnic population is most represented on the streets in certain parts of town?
If my character is a young woman in a small town in 1890s Nebraska, how does she support herself? (Tender Mysteries Series, coming November, 2012) What sort of dwelling does she live in? Does she have access to a telephone? What does she do when she is confronted by the difficulties of living in a society dominated by men?
I've always enjoyed reading well written historical fiction because, as a reader, I get to see a totally different perspective on life and survival. People who lived a hundred years and more ago had all of the same problems we have to day plus many, many more. It's fascinating to see how a good author depicts the handling of these problems by his protagonists.
If you haven't indulged in a historical novel recently, treat yourself to the pleasure of reading one. Live in a different time period for just a little while.
Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
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