#IWSG: The Reluctant Historical Fiction Writer

There are four genres of fiction that I have always hated…

Historical Fiction

Romance

Christian Fiction

Fantasy

Now regarding Fantasy, hate may be a strong word. My issue has always been lack of diversity, though that has been getting better in recent years—I love the Children of Blood and Bone series! However, I’m not the biggest fan of world building. If I have to learn a new language, new geography, new religion, new history, etc., plus 50 characters’ names, I check out.

I never got into Lord of the Rings, despite my dad “kidnapping” me and forcing me to watch the entire trilogy—I fell asleep 20 minutes into the first movie.

I also grew up a Church Girl, so books like Harry Potter were banned in my house!

(But I still managed to develop a secret vampire obsession. Hmm…)

As for the other three genres… Well, let’s just say I’ve read plenty of bad books in them, which makes my answer to today’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group question all the more ironic.

What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Today I write in all three of these genres. Well, maybe not so much Historical Fiction. Here’s the thing about Historical Fiction. You’ve got to do a ton of research to ensure that your depiction of the time period your story is set in is accurate…or at least believable. And I’ve read some books where it was obvious the author didn’t do that. On the other hand, I’ve read books where the author did too much research and spent so much time describing the time period, the setting, the people, etc., trying to convince us (the reader) that we were in, for example, 19th century New York that we lost the story.

I’m the type of reader (and author) who prefers that authors let the reader use their imagination to fill in the gaps. I don’t like reading heavy description and I don’t like writing it either. I don’t necessarily call this evasion being lazy; I just prefer to get to the story. That’s what we’re here for, right? That’s why we picked up the book. So there’s a delicate balance to writing Historical Fiction, at least for me, and I haven’t quite figured out where I draw the line as far as too much or too little research.

The funny thing is, though, I do want to tackle Historical Fiction at some point in my career and write a neo-slave narrative. Since my Twilight Zone marathon on New Year’s Eve, I’ve had this story stuck in my head and I haven’t been able to shake it. You might compare it to Octavia Butler’s Kindred, but it’s actually inspired by Twilight Zone episode “100 Years Over the Rim,” which is about a leader of a wagon train traveling West who ventures off in search of water and medicine and stumbles into present-day New Mexico. My story has a similar premise: a runaway slave in pursuit of freedom stumbles into present day, where not only are Black people free, but they are also doctors, lawyers, businessmen, presidents! I watched a movie this spring that had a similar premise, only the twist wasn’t so much time travel as it was this idea of being frozen in time while the rest of the world progressed. It really inspired me to expand on my little flash fiction piece and turn it into a longer work.

I’ve spent the last several months brainstorming a plot, planning an outline in my head, thinking of a perfect conclusion to the story that doesn’t involve the main character going back to her enslaved past but still finding closure to that chapter of her life. And I want to incorporate Juneteenth into the story as well. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Juneteenth, it is an only recently recognized federal holiday (which falls on June 19) commemorating the emancipation of all slaves in the US after the Civil War. The reason why we choose Juneteenth as opposed to when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed is because there were still pockets of slaves in the deep, deep South who had no idea they had been freed. So this date marks the anniversary of when those slaves learned of their freedom. I feel my story juxtaposed to the story of Juneteenth would work really well in showcasing the theme of discovering one’s own freedom and autonomy, after so many years of it being denied or kept hidden.

The story in my head is pretty much done. I still have to fill in the blanks in the middle. But I have a beginning. I have an ending that I’m satisfied with. And I’m going to try to not let intimidation and my hatred (or fear) of writing Historical Fiction convince me that this is not a story that should be told.

But before I officially get started with writing, I may want to read a few books in the genre to get in that headspace of writing a neo-slave narrative. Obviously, Kindred will be one. There’s also the novel Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I read it in college and really enjoyed it and would love to read it again. If you have any other suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them!

I know I’ll have to do some research, unfortunately. With the Juneteenth background, I want to set the story in Galveston, Texas, a place I’ve never been, but maybe this will give me an excuse to travel!

And…as if a gift from the heavens, I just happened upon the article “Tips for Effective Research on Your Novel” by Nicholas C. Rossis while typing this post. Perfect timing! Armed with new tips, research doesn’t seem as daunting now. Well, it still does, but at least I’m don’t feel like I’m going about it blindly. I have a guide!

The Reluctant Christian Romance Writer

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Pexels.com

I realize this post is getting long, so in Part 2 of this series, I’ll talk about why my strong dislike for Christian Fiction and Romance has led to me becoming a not-so-reluctant Christian Romance writer. Stay tuned…

—Nortina


Sidenote: I am aware that because of my frequent impromptu and extended blogging hiatuses, I’m always missing the IWSG blog hops when they come around the first Wednesday of the month, and so my blog is repeatedly removed from the sign-up list. For this reason, I’m not going to add it back until I can participate in at least two more blog hops!

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