Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Character Issue

British novelist Andrew Taylor, many of whose recent novels (Call the Dying, The American Boy, etc.) have had to do with historical crimes, offers some advice at Shots--free of charge--to authors who want to make their past-set tales resonate with contemporary readers, but not sacrifice authenticity of time and place:
Most contemporary readers are happy to travel through time as well as through space. A historical background works best when it reminds you what has changed about people and their lives, and what remains the same (a geographical background that’s different from your own works in just the same way). I’m as interested in the psychological and moral baggage that characters carry inside them as in the external features of their lives, and I think most readers are too. You need to get the concrete details as accurate as you can, of course, but parading your research is often counter-productive. The other point is that narrative and the interplay of characters are the most important things--if you don’t get those right, the best researched historical novel in the world will fall flat.

No comments: