Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Post: R.L. Jean and Historical Adventure

R.L. (Rima) Jean is the author of The Noble Pirates.

See the intro post for more information on this blog series!

History is chock-full of unbelievable stories. I’ve always been surprised that so little of the real adventures are used in historical fiction; oftentimes, authors feel the need to invent complicated plots to create a compelling story. But the truth is, sifting through the history books will open your eyes to some of the most amazing adventures out there.

Naturally, not every writer of historical fiction wants to dig around for these hidden gems; I attribute my tendency to “dig” to my archaeology degree. Most of my stories revolve around little-known personages who actually existed and had lives that are perfect fodder for good adventure stories.

In writing historical adventure, I also try and find sources in the modern world that reflect how things were in the era of my choosing. This includes talking to people of similar occupations to my characters (sailors, soldiers, etc). One of the greatest resources to me has been historical re-enactments. By watching a re-enactment, or speaking to a seasoned re-enactor, I am able to really get a feel of what life was like, and how people of the time behaved in dangerous situations.

One of the trickiest parts, for me, is understanding how people of a completely different time period dealt with imminent danger, with how those peoples felt about life and death. Their lives were shorter, and their loved ones often died prematurely from illness. To them, “adventure” was far more about surviving from day to day than it is now, that’s for sure. There was no romance in it, for the most part, and they expected the worst.

Many of the answers can be found through careful research. As I said before, history lends itself to creating fictional adventures. After all, truth is often stranger than fiction.

Check out my take over at Heather's blog, and Heather's post at Rima's blog.

Next week, we'll talk about the benefits and challenges of writing real historical personages.

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