Monday, April 23, 2012

Setting Description in Historical Novels

I'm convinced setting is one of the reasons people like southern Front Porch Fiction. Small towns, old houses, and wide front porches still hold their appeal, as do Spanish moss and magnolia trees. These details enrich the story and the scene.

When writing historical novels, much attention is paid to clothing styles and fabrics, architecture and building materials, the use of animals and means of transportation. But some writers of historical fiction may view nature through contemporary eyes, and they miss the opportunity to give the reader a glimpse of the landscape way back when.

Cypress Trees  at Pettigrew SP, NC
Copyright 2007 K Buffaloe

While reading through a historical draft written by a friend, I realized Carolina parakeets would have flown through the skies in abundance during the time period in which the story takes place. Cypress trees along the coast would have been so massive, several people with arms outstretched and holding hands could barely hug the tree. In the Piedmont and coastal plains, bison would have roamed through savannas. And in areas where hardwood grew, the great American chestnut tree may have shaded large fields.

So when writing historical fiction, remember to describe the setting as it was in those days, before farming, development, and disease obliterated what are now artifacts in museums.

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