Dear Dr Darwin, I’ve been writing short stories and contemporary-set fiction for years, but recently I fell madly in love with a real historical character: a fascinating, forceful, charming person, Jocelyn, who was deeply involved in the big dramas of the day. I know I want to write a novel, not a biography, and I’ve […]
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, You keep saying “make it vivid and convincing”, but how do I do that? When I put in lots of detail my writers’ circle say it slows up the story; when I cut it back they say they don’t believe in the places. When I make my characters act/think/react differently from how […]
Dear Dr Darwin, I’m writing a novel set in medieval Mallorca, and I’m a draft-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, not a planner. My business partner says it’s inefficient to do the research until I’ve written my first draft and know what I need. My critiquing partner says it’s asking for trouble to do the writing first and leave […]
Dear Dr Darwin, When a wartime-set story is all, “So I put the gravy browning on my legs as I drank my Camp coffee and sang along to Glenn Miller,” or similar? It’s so unsubtle that it ruins my immersion in the story. I know it makes sense to use things that I think lots of […]
Dear Dr Darwin, I loved doing the research for my historical novel, but a beta-reader friend says that “all the history stuff” is like lumps in the custard. I don’t want to write about Britain in 2014, but if I don’t explain and describe historical things, readers won’t understand what’s happening. Also, they won’t believe […]