How much historical detail is too much?

It’s a fine line to blend historical fact with fiction and to do it well. I love it when history lends flavor and helps to paint a picture in a reader’s mind. This is definitely something I’ve had to work on developing over the years. And, it doesn’t hurt having the Internet and a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge at your fingertips. It certainly makes research a lot easier, faster and more fun.

How much history is too much? I know many traditional publishers prefer simple storylines without too many secondary characters and underlying plots. Add to that limits to word length, and historical fact may suffer. I believe readers expect to be challenged as well as entertained, and appreciate the added effort.

I must confess, here and now, that I am fortunate to be working with an avid historical enthusiast and research guru. Brit tends to dig up the most wonderful little tidbits that add so much to our writing and she makes certain all our characters are dressed in great, sumptuous detail. But, because some marvelous historical fact is discovered, doesn’t mean it always works in the story. I, on the other hand, am the litmus test. If I find myself lost or confused, or just zoning out, then it’s time to take a look at it again. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, and when necessary, do the painful thing and cut it out.

There is also the flip-side to all this: we are writing fiction and we don’t always stick to true historical fact when developing our characters and stories. Take our strong female protagonist; she is not necessarily taken out of a page in the history books. We often attribute traits to our heroines not often found in real historical women, but rather, we paint them as we would like to think of them, not how they were. That’s the beauty of writing fiction.

While we may want our heroines to be feisty and strong, not all women in the book will be warrior princesses. Some characters may be shown in a more accurate light of the time period. Again, it’s a fine line and a continuing educational process; there are lessons learned with each and every book written.

Brit Darby is eager to apply newfound knowledge and create her next adventurous tale. I hope you will come along for the ride.