Historical Romance novel

My first novel is about to be published.  Once I receive the word, I’ll let you know more about it.  It’s a historical romance, one of the most difficult genres.  Not only do you have to research history, you have to check each slang or major term to make sure it was used in the time period your story is set in.  The story takes place in 1860.

Some of the words and phrases not in existence in 1860 that I had to delete included wisecrack, snookering, University, cow patties, skipped town, work up the nerve, make it clear, flag of Ohio, smokescreens and the more obvious, terrorist.

How long will our love last?

It is not, Celia, in our power_MG_3641

To say how long our love will last;

It may be we within this hour

May lose those joys we now do taste:

The Blessed, that immortal be,

From change in love are only free.


Then since we mortal lovers are,

Ask not  how long our love will last;

But while it does, let us take care

Each minute be with pleasure passed:

Were it not madness to deny

To live because we’re sure to die?

George Etherege, 1635-1691


Using language to create images

Show a story with words by focusing on the images and combining the scenes to create a story.  As the writer your job is to create a new world or propose new ideas. Practice description by going to a real place and describe it in detail then condense it for a story.  Create images using language in different pattern tools such as these:

Alliteration is the repetition of the beginning consonant sounds of adjoining words.  “The colorful cornucopia contained assorted vegetables and fruit.”

Analogy is showing how the features of two things agree in some respects and can create a comparison.  “Her heart beat like a drum calling the troops to battle.”

Atmosphere is the emotion of a story or its mood, whether scary, romantic, or impending doom.

A caricature has exaggerated or distorted features that may have stereotypical ties to it.

Foreshadowing is created by briefly mentioning something early in a story before exposing in more detail.

Flashback is used to reveal something that happened before the opening scene that has impact on the present.

Imagery is when the writer creates an image through details  “a shadow moved outside her room” instead of stating something  “she was scared.”

Inference is drawing a conclusion from another fact or premise  “He was a gardener so he had access to poisons.”

Irony to express something opposite of the meaning.  “It’s a lovely day for a picnic,” she said as the downpour continued.

Metaphor a word or phrase denotes one object or idea but directly compares it to another likeness or analogy.  “She is the apple of his eye.”

Parody is when a story closely imitates something else in order to ridicule it.  Spaceballs is a parody of Star Wars.

Personification gives nonhuman or inanimate objects human characteristics.

Poetic language can be written in verse and convey a declaration of love or romance.

Satire holds up human vices and shortcomings to ridicule or scorn and is often used politically.

Simile is when two unlike things are introduced with like or as. Add original similes but avoid clichés.

Stereotype images are common to a group and oversimplified opinion can be considered negative.  They should be avoided.

Those heart clenching moments

_MG_3628Once you’ve introduced the main character and created sympathy between the reader and the hero, bad things begin to happen.  Announce the problem and the stakes for the hero.  Make the reader want to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Construct the story around a heart clutching moment such as:

  1. Love at first sight (Romeo and Juliet)
  2. A huge moral lapse (Judas takes silver)
  3. A murder
  4. Death by other means (Injun Joe starves in cave)
  5. A refusal of grace (Mayella Ewell sticks to her story of rape under oath)
  6. Nature gone wild (shark eats girl)
  7. Someone stands up to corruption
  8. A change of heart, for good or evil
  9. An act of depraved violence
  10. Betrayal
  11. Forgiveness (Melanie asks Scarlet to receive)
  12. A revelation (Pip realizes benefactor is convict


Why write a book?

_MG_4313Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.

Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965


That is a good book, it seems to me, which is opened with expectation and closed with profit.

Louisa M. Alcott, 1832-1888


When I am dead, I hope it may be said: “His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”

Hilaire Belloc


A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a man’s possessions. A library is not a luxury. It is one of the necessities of a full life.

Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-1887

The theme is what a story is all about

The theme is the central idea of the story and unifies the story as a whole.  It is the focus point that everything in the story is directed toward.  It is like a compass point.  Without it, a story can ramble on in different directions and subplots sprout up and tangle the main plot.

What is the message, whether simple or complex, the story tells the reader?
Good triumphs over evil?  Love conquers all?  Justice prevails?

For instance, in a murder mystery everything is directed at solving the murder and justice prevailing over evil.

The theme is the resolution of a novel.  The bad guy is caught; the boy wins the girl; the hero attains the prize.
In each story a lesson is learned.  It is the heart of the story.  The writer uses emotions and trials to move the reader to the ultimate goal.  The reader should breathe a sigh of relief when the bad guy is caught; he should shed a tear when the couple finally embrace and declare their love;  he should give a cry of triumph when the hero saves the day.

If you don’t know your theme before you start writing, figure it out by the first 100 words.  I have found that without a clear theme and direction, the story wanders and a lot of editing is the end result.

Themes can be about:Church

Life after a tragedy or loss

Death creates a new beginning; hope after a tragedy

Heroism whether noble, false or with conflicting values or courage and cowardice

Escape from pain, abuse, family pressure, social constraints

Love that grows or fades with problems

A journey or quest which usually leads back home

Coming of age for a boy or girl

A patriotic conflict relating to war or nationalism

Betrayal from a loved one or friend

Justice versus judgment

Fortune seeking and the price

A battle between good and evil

Survival story of man against nature

Conformity to industrialization, society, politics, or wealth

Individualism versus security

Alienation – emotional isolation

Discover inner strength or outer treasures


Historical fiction is not reality

“There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)

“The best part of the fiction in many novels is the notice that the characters are purely imaginary.” – Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960)

“Very few things happen at the right time and the rest do not happen at all.  The conscientious historian will correct these defects.” – Herodotus (484-425 B.C.)

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.” – Kingsley Amis

Plotting a story

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry rides by at Hale Farm & Village.

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry rides by at Hale Farm & Village.

I usually begin with a series of events and write fifty to a hundred words to create a rough draft of scenes in the sequence of my story.

I also create an outline and use it to see how the story conflicts increase and are resolved.

Each element of the plot should increase tension.  Use the cut and paste option to rearrange the plot sequence.

Look for sections that reveal too much and move them farther back in the story.

Create a timeline of the emotional arcs between the lovers if a romance story.  They can’t have their happily ever after moment until the end.  When they begin to fall in love, throw something at them to break them apart.

I like to keep the pace quick with action separated by dialogue to speed the story or introspective thought to slow it.

The plot is a plan of action.  Identify the problem, conflict or obstacle and take steps to resolve it.  The writer needs to identify who is at the greatest risk or is motivated to solve the problem.  What question is finally answered?

Examples of plots:

To cause something, revenge, punishment, or change

To escape something, danger, or pain

To resolve something, get answer, repair a problem

To survive something, endurance, and stamina

Is there a symbol of the problem?

The hero must face the consequence of increased emotional damage.  The more a person is in love, the more they have to lose.

Create a list of heart clutching moments and build the story around them by adding conflict, suffering, or emotional upheaval.  Build suspense with the sequence of events.

Foreshadow the fear or concern and build suspense before the resolution.  Things worsen before the loose ends are tied up in the end.  Use suspense to turn pages.

Symbols help to identify an abstract


Can a frog symbolize transformation? What does it mean when a prince is a frog waiting to be kissed?

An object can stand as a symbol for something else, like a human experience.  A reoccurring symbol can signify a motif in a book.

  • Birds can mean freedom
  • Buildings can mean strength
  • Cats can signify mystery
  • City can represent civilization
  • Feathers can signify lightness
  • Fire can symbolize anger
  • Plants can represent nature
  • Snakes can mean danger
  • Trees can represent steadfastness
  • Water can symbolize life

What are some of your symbols in writing?

Who said that?

_MG_6556Dialogue is the conversation between characters.  It is easiest to limit a conversation between two people.  Each speaker has a separate line with dialogue enclosed in quotes.

If more than two people are in the conversation, “tags” such as “she said” or a name must be used to identify the speaker so the reader doesn’t become confused.  Use said or asked most of the time.  Tags can be eliminated if the character is described doing something before or after speaking.

By using gestures with the dialogue, the writer shows the reader how the characters feel.  Use sharp action verbs to show what the speaker is doing.

The constant advice to “show not tell” is in this element.  Avoid adverbs.

For example, “I want to leave,” she said angrily is telling the reader how she felt.  Angrily is an adverb.

Instead show the emotion.  She pounded her fists against his chest.  “I want to leave.”

Internal dialogue or thoughts from a character’s point of view do not need she thought he didn’t like her.  Instead just say what she is thinking.  The reader is in her mind.  “He didn’t like her.  He didn’t even say good-bye.”

Through internal thoughts and gestures the reader understands the mood and feelings of the character and emphasizes important moments in the story.

Dialogue has a purpose.  It should advance the plot, reveal character traits, and build tension in the story.  It can be dramatic, informative, or add humor to the situation.

Dialogue reveals facts in an interesting way.  Along with the dialogue, the writer describes actions and reactions to what is spoken.  Other character’s comments reveal hidden feelings or reveal something about the protagonist if the story is told from his point of view.  He can’t see how he looks except in a mirror.  Others can describe him or reveal feelings.  “Why are you nervous?” or “You don’t look well.”

The character’s personality should be revealed through dialogue, and each person has a distinct voice, whether they are angry, kind, sarcastic, or comforting.  This aids the reader in knowing who is speaking.  It can be a repetitive phrase, cracking a joke, speaking intellectually, or saying something stupid, cruel, or insulting to set the speaker apart from the other characters.

Don’t run dialogue longer than three sentences and break up the dialogue with thoughts or actions.  Remind the reader who is talking if the dialogue is long.

In a mystery, dialogue reveals what the detective has discovered or his thoughts on whom the killer may be.

In a romance, dialogue can reveal feelings, hide true feelings, or cause misunderstandings.

Dialogue can foreshadow events to come.  A character can predict the outcome.  They may be correct in predicting the ending or the opposite may result.  Scarlett in Gone With The Wind declares she will never love Rhett Butler, but she confesses her love in the end.