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Great periods of History to write about – stage 2 (Tudors to WW2) #Historical #Fiction

Ok, last time I discussed five era’s from Ancient Greece until the Medieval age, this time I’ll be bringing things up until the modern age.

The White Queen - Philippa Gregory

Featured novel: Philippa Gregory, The White Queen

The End of the medieval period and the coming of the Tudors 1455 – 1603 – War of the Roses, a large King with some unfortunate wives, an iconic Queen.

PRO’s:  Where to start with this one!  There are so many stories in this period, be it the Princes in the Tower, the battle of Bosworth Field, Henry VIII and his never ending quest for love  – tearing England apart in the process – and that’s before you even get to Elizabeth 1st and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  This period more than any other personifies English History in most people’s imagination.

CON’s:  Despite the War of the Roses ending in 1485, it seems that some people have yet to realise it.  There are still many in the UK and around the world that are either die-hard Plantagenets or Tudors, and are liable to get very cross with you if your account doesn’t favour their side (My sister is one of them, so you can count me out).  You could turn to the later history of Henry or Elizabeth (everyone likes them) but you will be up against some very stiff competition as this is a popular era for writers.  If you do choose anything from this period, try and find a new angle to tell the story…

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Featured novel: Jane Austen, Pride and Predudice

The period drama 1700 – 1850 – the era of Romance, village greens, and dastardly villains.

PROs: You get this one right, you might end up very rich.  Not only is this a popular era for novels, if your book is good enough, it could be turned into one of those period dramas so beloved of Sunday night television.  The class divide can provide your novel some much needed conflict, but don’t lose sight of why people love these novels so much, a glimpse into an idealised world of gentleman, ladies, balls, and beautiful dresses.

CONs:  There is some rather daunting competition from novelists like Jane Austen amongst others, but who ever said it would be easy? My difficulty in writing about this period is that unfortunately I need a battle or two, or at least the odd chance of a few fellows being chopped up.  Shame though, as this era has such commercial appeal.


Featured novel: Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

American Civil War – 1861 -1865 Yankee Doodle and Dixie go toe to toe.

PROs: The scale of this conflict was truly shocking as the United States underwent its greatest trial.  The fact that this conflict was brother against brother only increased the tragedy.  A novel that can reflect the divided loyalties’ of the participants and recapture the uncertainty of the period is what you are after.  The strong conflicting issues of slavery and emancipation provides an opportunity for your novel to have real gravitas.

CON’s: Be really sure of your American History and Politics.  As we gradually near the modern age, there is an increased likelihood that your novel will impact on issues that are still contentious points in the present day.  The racial tensions and issues from the American civil war have lost none of their potency so it is advisable to really do your homework before you offend anyone.  This shouldn’t be a reason not to write your novel, just be aware.

Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

Featured novel: Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong

World War one 1914 -1918 – the misery of the trenches, and a new way of war.

PROs: The grim realities of modern warfare became clear as machine guns and mud filled trenches replaced cavalry and any notions of glorified military traditions.  The stark horrors of modernised artillery and mechanised warfare made the bravery of the soldier’s stories all the more heart-breaking.  The war poetry of the period can provide you with much inspiration and genuine personal accounts are available to add authenticity to your novel.

CONs: It is very difficult for any novel based on this conflict to be anything other than very dark – which is fine, but don’t let this lose your focus on the basics of good writing and the need for believable characters with genuine human relationships with one another.  The comradeship shown from some of the war poems should provide instruction that your novel shouldn’t solely be about the gas, trenches, and misery of the conflict.

Featured novel: The Time in Between, Maria Duenas

Between the wars 1918 -1939 – the roaring twenties, the great depression, the rise of a dark power.

PRO’s: Rather than focus of the second great conflict of the twentieth century, I decided to look at the period immediately before the war.   Whether you set your novel during the time of the prohibition America, the dark days of the depression, the Nazi’s rise to power in Germany, or the Spanish Civil war of the thirties, your novel should be able to hold a sense of the impending storm to come.

CON’s: As we approach our own timeline, there is always a chance that you might write a perfectly plausible set of events in your novel, only for an (old) reader of yours to call you and say, ‘Hey! I was there, you’ve got that wrong!!’  Make sure you do your homework before being caught out!

Okay, that’s it for now.  However, there are so many more areas of History to examine, and I am delighted to say that next week Burmesa – who writes a fantastic blog on animation called ‘Animestus’  – will be putting forward some alternative era’s.  See it here next week!!

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