Fiction Ed’s Blog: Writing About Historical Characters

Shutterstock / Prachaya Roekdeet ©

This week, Fiction Ed Lucy is looking at writing historical characters, in stories for “The People’s Friend”.

A Mix Of Settings

“The People’s Friend” carries a mix of stories, some with a contemporary setting, and some set in days gone by.

In every weekly issue, we carry six contemporary stories, and one with a period setting – which is always in a different time period to the historical serial that’s running that week.

Our Special carries more historical stories, with there’s more flexibility on era – with the weekly, we’re unlikely to go back further than Tudor times.

Choosing a period setting for your story gives it a solid setting and is a good starting point.

Do Some Research First

If you’re writing a story set in a historical period, it’s helpful to do some thorough research, prior to writing.

So for example, what clothes would your character be wearing? What would their day-to-day life have been like? What did they eat, where did they live?

Try to really get into their shoes.

Focus On A Secondary Character

When writing about historical characters for “The People’s Friend”, it’s a good idea to focus on what might be considered a secondary character, rather than the main character.

So for example, if you wanted to write about Florence Nightingale (above), consider telling the story from the perspective of someone around her, rather from her viewpoint.

A good example of this is a serial we ran some years ago, which featured both Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth the First. It was written from the viewpoints of those in both Queens’ immediate circles, rather than from the viewpoints of the Queens themselves.

We’d also never put words into the mouth of any actual historical character.

Keep The Reader In Mind

The most important thing to keep in mind when writing historical fiction (or indeed any fiction) for the “Friend”, is – will this story/character appeal to the reader?

Will they make a connection with the characters? Will they feel better for having read your story?

Best of luck!

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!