Today's section of Historical Fiction 101 discusses creating characters for historical fiction.
Historical Fiction 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Historical Fiction
Part 2: Characters
by Diane Vaughn
Now that you are thinking about your setting, conflict and plot, you probably need to focus on your characters. I happen to be the kind of person who develops the main character(s) and then I write my story around the character while changing or adding things about that character as I go. This method may not work for you, but you should at least be thinking about what kind of character you want and how he or she fits into the time period of your story.
Things that should strongly be taken into consideration are gender roles, ideals and everyday life pertaining to your specific time period. For example, I happen to write Pirates of the Caribbean fan fiction, so most of my stories take place in the mid 18th century. Because my heroine was female, I had to research gender roles of women and what a typical, middle class 18th century woman would do with her time and what she and others would consider acceptable and unacceptable. For example, a woman wearing pants was completely taboo as it was considered improper for a woman to show her ankles. Of course, I came across the pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny who disguised themselves as men and were a part of Calico Jack's crew who completely rejected those ideals.
I also had to research eighteenth century men and women’s clothing so that I could write historically accurate descriptions for my characters’ appearance. It would not suffice to say, ‘she wore a blue dress’ because dresses were not called dresses; they were called gowns and therefore has a much different meaning than the modern meaning of gown. Women also did not wear corsets; they wore stays, and both men and women had a specific order in which they put on their clothing.
Next Sunday in Part 3, Mrs. Vaughn will discuss researching for a work of historical fiction.