Our resident agony aunt, Dr Darwin, answers a common question – how do you research historical fiction? Dear Dr Darwin, Everyone says “research till your eyes bleed” – you did in your post about cultural appropriation – but when I Google, all I can find is the information I know already, repeated in a million […]
Dr. Darwin's Writing Tips
Historia’s inimitable agony aunt, Dr Darwin answers your questions about the craft of historical writing.
Distressed by dialogue? Got your timelines in a tangle? Buried by your bibliography? Then this is the place for you.
Got a question for Dr Darwin? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t promise a reply but all questions will be considered for future columns.
Dear Dr Darwin, I’m working on a script that begins during the 1830’s. The central character is a fictional young Black teen, and two major characters are actual historical figures: a young Native American warrior and a mixed-blood warrior; the true purpose of the script is to tell their fascinating story. I, however, am White. […]
Dear Dr Darwin I recently came upon a long-dead member of my family, Jebediah, who did some amazing things, in all sorts of places in the world. I think lots of people would find Jebediah fascinating, but I’m not equipped to do the formal, thorough research that a biography would need. Nor is there a […]
Dear Dr Darwin I’ve got to the stage where I want feedback on my novel-in-progress, but I only know non-historical novelists, or non-novelist historians, or readers of historical fiction who don’t write it. I don’t want to ask too many at once, for fear of getting confused, so which should I go for? P.S. I […]
Dear Dr Darwin My characters don’t think they sound historical, but their present-day isn’t my present-day: they are Other to us. If I make them sound like 21st century people then the novel will just be like a modern film in pretty period costumes, but if I try to write the novel as it would […]
Dear Dr Darwin, I’ve found a gripping set of historical events that I want to build a novel round, and before you start shaking your Tudor bonnet, it’s not because I have a non-fiction agenda: this is a glorious concatenation of politics, faith, personalities, clothes, weapons and all the other things that make historical fiction […]
Dear Dr Darwin, I know we have to get the facts right, or risk the reader not buying into their side of the contract of fiction, but I do get so fed up with having to fact-check the whole time. When I sit down to write, I have stacks of books and files of images, […]
Dear Dr Darwin You’ve talked elsewhere about finding the “white space between the facts” on which we can write, and I think I’ve found a time and place – the run-up to Waterloo – which gives me (just about) enough white space for fiction. But I’m finding it very hard to write anything on those […]