Margie Lawson

Changing your Writing World

Navigating the Tightrope between Historical Fact and Historical Fiction

There are so many questions when you begin (or get in the middle of!) writing historical fiction. What should I research? When should I research? How much research should I put in the book? Why don’t my characters feel historical? Why does my prose seem to clash with my story?

Writing good historical fiction means navigating the tightrope between historical fact and your fictional story. And there are so many places where it is easy to step off that tightrope and into the abyss of mediocre historical fiction. In this class, we will consider and practice several elements of historical fiction as well as learn by example from authors who have navigated the balance in their work.

If you desire to write historical fiction or are wanting to up your game in creating historical fiction that immerses your reader in another era, this class is for you.

In this class you’ll learn to:

  • identify the amount of history needed for your story
  • research the big picture and the small details
  • identify the kinds of things to research and where to find them
  • create characters true to their time period
  • use your words to transport readers to a different era
  • mesh all the various elements of history into a finished work of fiction

Class outline:

Session 1: The Spectrum of Historical Fiction

  • Define historical fiction
  • Consider the spectrum of historical fiction
  • Identify your WIP along that spectrum

Session 2: Research: Overview the Time Period

  • Big picture research
  • Locational research
  • History that informs plot
  • Timelines

Session 3: Research: Daily Life Realities

  • What to research
  • When to research
  • Where to research

Session 4: Research: Customs and Culture

  • What to research
  • When to research
  • Where to research

Session 5: Characters: Real and Imagined

  • Using historical figures
  • Creating historical characters
  • Avoiding anachronistic characters

Session 6: Words: Vocabulary

  • Create a historical “feeling” through words
  • Etymology
  • Formality
  • Word Order
  • Expressions
  • Tone and Rhythm

Session 7: Words: Dialogue

  • Dialect
  • Other languages
  • Slang
  • Education and Class

Session 8: Putting it Together

  • Identifying your strengths and weaknesses
  • Focus when drafting
  • Focus when revising
  • The overall “feel”


Anne Mateer

D'Ann Mateer has loved the marriage of history and fiction since she first began reading. Armed with a B.A. in history from Southern Methodist University, she has authored four traditionally published historical novels, including one Carol Award finalist. This past September, she published her first indie historical novella, No Small Storm, with another scheduled to release late spring. D'Ann is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers’ League of Texas, and Historical Novel Society. She enjoys helping other writers through freelance editing, judging writing contests, and teaching online classes. D'Ann and her husband, Jeff, enjoy reading, exploring historical sites and historical homes, and visiting their grown children—and granddaughter!—in Texas and Massachusetts. D'Ann and Jeff are currently living their empty nest adventure in a high rise condo in Austin, Texas.



Amazing teacher and critiquer!

Rated 5 out of 5
April 13, 2021

I don't normally give reviews, but this deserved a five star rating. Anne is very detailed when critiqueing paragraphs of your wip. She is very honest, which helps you become a better writer. Honest but constructive. Good advice on writing historical fiction. She helped me make my dialogue sound more historical. The best fiction writing teacher I've had so far.

Avatar for Alenna

Critical Info for Historical Writers

Rated 5 out of 5
April 4, 2021

This course helped move me to the next level. Some things you can glean as a writer of historical fiction by reading it, but this course helped synthesize and organize the approach that is so critical to make a story in another time period and world ring true.

Avatar for Linda Dindzans
Linda Dindzans

Historical Fiction How-to's

Rated 5 out of 5
April 1, 2021

I enjoyed the class taught by Anne Mateer immensely. It helped me focus on what historical fiction is and the necessary tools to be confident in the book I’m writing. The lessons provided once a week emphasized proper use of period language, daily chores, and situations. Learning about other authors in this genre were fantastic examples. I recommend this class to others as it provides the foundation of getting you well on your way to writing your historical fiction novel.

Avatar for Mary Patrick
Mary Patrick

Anne's class helped me land a three-book contract

Rated 5 out of 5
January 6, 2020

I took Navigating the Tightrope when I decided to switch over from contemporary romance to historical fiction. I'd written three novels, with no offers, and thought I'd try the genre I love most. But writing historical fiction intimidated me; I didn't know where to start.
This class helped me learn how to use the setting and historical details to make my stories come alive. It offered me the confidence to write a book set in 19th century India. And because of it, that book was contracted by my top-choice publisher (along with an additional two books.) I'm so grateful to Anne and this class. She's a fantastic teacher and mentor.

Avatar for Kimberly Duffy
Kimberly Duffy

Submit a Review


© 2021 Margie Lawson, all rights reserved.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram