Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource. In this post, I look at ways for you to add layers to your scenes in historical romances.
In terms of historical fiction, we look back. It is all about historical context. The research must be fun. It must also fit your story, and lift the narrative.
Show us the ‘personality’ of that era, so that the historical setting becomes almost another character that will show the sexual, gender and social politics, and the mood of the times.
5 Ways To Add Layers To Your Scenes In Historical Romances
- History itself. Who was in power at the time? Why? What was the main trade? What were the marriage laws? Historical detail is a great way to inform or give impetus to the plot, such as the London Season for Debutantes, etc.
- How circumstances affect characters. We must never just lay on historical information, but rather weave into the story and it should ideally be seen through the lens of the character. How does she feel about how society treats women, etc.?
- Sense it. Make use of the senses—the smell of the docks, the latest French perfume, the sight of a new ship or a building, the type of music in vogue, etc. – and tie those to the historical ambience of the world
- Dress it. Make sure you know what your heroine is wearing, what undergarments support it, what was considered appropriate or risqué, and what kind of dress would suit your character best
- Detail it. Go for small details that signal the reader that you’re building an authentic world – the dress, the dinner plate, the food, a cherished pet, an artwork or an objet d’art etc. Other details that may lift the narrative: modes of transport, whether it is a carriage or a horse (what kind?), the architecture, furniture, the literature of the day, details of places of worship and churches, the type of medicine, etc.
We need to go under the surface of the story, to know what life was like in that era and how your character is experiencing it. Remember that your reader may not know anything about the period or time—they need the writer to build the world, paint the picture, give colour, texture and emotion.
The characters don’t live in a vacuum-we need to build the characters’ world through details, sensory description; the world must be believable and entertaining.
5 Exercises To Add Layers To Your Scenes In Historical Romances
- Print images from Internet or collect photocopies from books and create a collage of these for your writing desk
- Describe the interior of the heroine’s bedroom as if you were writing for a nostalgia magazine or for a new experiential museum
- Describe the morning ritual of the hero: how he shaves, dresses, what ritual he may follow
- Create a dinner menu for a typical social meal of the time, and source ingredients for it – imagine the trip to the market
- Imagine a time traveller from the present happens upon your setting —have her write a dispatch back home to describe this extraordinary experience!
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