How to Write Historical Romance – Genre Guide For Writers

Posted on Oct 1, 2023

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Welcome to the guide on mastering the art of historical romance writing. Creating a compelling historical romance involves blending the authenticity of a bygone era with a heartfelt love story. 

In this article, we will unravel the essential components of this genre, providing insightful tips and actionable takeaways to help you navigate the intricate details of this genre. 

From accurate historical research to creating believable characters within the societal norms of the chosen time period, we will explore the crucial steps to ensure your historical romance lands with maximum impact on its readers.

So, whether you are envisioning a love affair in the Regency era or a tale of heartbreak set against the backdrop of the Victorian era, this guide will equip you with all you need to write the best historical romance story possible.

This guide on how to write historical romance contains:

  1. How to do historical research
  2. How to have characterization within historical context
  3. How to have a balance of romance and history
  4. How to include historical themes and conflicts
  5. How to write authentic language and dialogue
  6. How to write historical romance – closing thoughts

How to do historical research

Writing great historical romance stories begins with a strong foundation in historical research and authenticity. Writers must meticulously study the specific time period they intend to portray, be it the Victorian era, Regency period, medieval times or any other place from time and history. 

This research encompasses understanding societal norms, cultural practices, daily life, fashion, language and significant events of that era. It is essential to grasp the specific details that shaped the lives of people during that time, as these details breathe life into the narrative.

By immersing themselves in historical research, writers gain insights into the beliefs, customs and traditions of the past. This knowledge enables them to create a vivid and accurate backdrop for their characters and storyline. 

Authenticity is key to transporting readers to another time and allowing them to experience the world as it was. From the way characters speak to the nuances of their interactions, every aspect should align with the historical context.

Ultimately, historical research and authenticity serve as the backbone of a successful historical romance. Writers who embrace this aspect not only offer readers an engaging love story but also a glimpse into the richness of the historical time period they are referencing, making the reading experience both educational and captivating.

How to have characterization within historical context

Writing compelling characters within the context of a particular historical era is a foundational aspect of writing historical romance. Characters must seamlessly fit into the societal, cultural and historical norms of the chosen time period. 

Their behaviors, beliefs, aspirations and even limitations should align with what was plausible and accepted during that era.

Understanding the roles of different genders, social classes and occupations is crucial. For instance, a woman’s ambitions and liberties in the Victorian era vastly differed from those in the 1920s. 

Characters should grapple with and respond to these societal constraints in a manner consistent with the time, enriching the narrative with authenticity.

Plus, character motivations should reflect the values and circumstances of the era. Whether it is the strict codes of honor in medieval times or the societal expectations in the 19th century, characters should align with the historical mindset and mentality.

This authenticity in characterization not only enhances the believability of the story but also helps modern readers appreciate the evolution of societal norms.

By diving into the psyche of characters within a historical context, writers can creare a more lifelike story.

Readers are then able to engage with characters not just as romantic protagonists, but as individuals navigating the constraints and opportunities of a specific historical period.

How to have a balance of romance and history

Achieving a careful balance between the romantic narrative and historical elements is at the core of writing successful historical romance. The romance aspect should drive the story, evoking emotions and connections between characters that resonate with readers. 

However, the historical backdrop should never be overshadowed; it should enhance the narrative, providing depth and authenticity.

Writers must skillfully mix historical elements such as the setting, societal norms and significant events with the romantic plotline. The historical details should enrich the love story, immersing readers in the era and allowing them to experience the romance within that context.

The romance itself should also reflect the period’s sensibilities regarding courtship, relationships and expressions of love. Whether it is the formal courtship of the Regency era or the social expectations of the Roaring Twenties, the romance should be an authentic reflection of those historical boundaries.

Ultimately, the reader should feel transported to the past while being emotionally invested in the love story. Striking this balance ensures that readers not only root for the romantic journey but also appreciate the cultural and historical settings that define the characters’ lives. 

A successfully balanced historical romance has more chance of captivating readers by offering a vivid, accurate portrayal of the past, making the romantic tale all the more enchanting and believable.

How to include historical themes and conflicts

In historical romance writing, integrating relevant themes and conflicts from the chosen historical era is essential for an engaging and authentic narrative. The historical context provides richness by discussing themes, issues and conflicts that can add depth and complexity to the story.

Authors should explore prevalent themes of the time, be it class struggles, gender roles, political tensions or societal expectations, and include them in the romance plot. 

For example, a love story set during the suffragette movement can explore themes of female empowerment and gender equality.

The conflicts within the story should align with the challenges individuals faced during the chosen era. This could involve navigating societal norms, dealing with prejudices or struggling against the constraints of their time. 

The conflicts should shape and intensify the romantic plot, adding layers of tension and drama.

By addressing these historical themes and conflicts, writers provide a genuine glimpse into the past while making the romance more engaging. It allows readers to appreciate not only the love story but also the broader societal and historical dynamics that influence the characters’ lives.

In this way, historical romance becomes a powerful lens through which readers can understand and empathize with the struggles and triumphs of the past.

How to write authentic language and dialogue

Navigating the language and dialogue of a specific historical period is a crucial skill in writing historical romance. While modern readers need to easily comprehend the narrative, incorporating a touch of the historical language and mannerisms is pivotal for authenticity.

Authors should conduct thorough research on the language conventions of the chosen era and be sure to understand how people spoke, the idioms they used and even the formalities in communication. 

By integrating these elements into dialogue, characters come alive in a way that is in keeping with the historical setting.

However, it is vital to strike a balance. The language should be accessible and engaging for contemporary readers, avoiding the risk of sounding overly archaic or incomprehensible. 

This balance ensures that the story remains immersive, allowing readers to feel the essence of the time period without feeling disconnected.

On top of this, dialogue should mirror the social norms and expectations of the era. Conversations should reflect the etiquettes, manners and customs specific to that time, enhancing the authenticity of character interactions.

In essence, mastering the language and dialogue of historical romance requires finesse, research and a keen understanding of linguistic evolution. 

By achieving the right linguistic balance, writers transport readers effortlessly into the past, where they can experience both the romance and the historical era in both an entertaining and yet believable manner.

How to write historical romance – closing thoughts

This guide should place writers in good stead for being able to write historical romance competently. By adhering to the principles above, as well as brining one’s own ideas to the table, anyone wishing to make their mark within this genre will have a good chance of success.

Finally, it is worth stating that all writers go through periods of revision and editing and this is not an equation that can be solved.

Trial and error, experimentation and trusting the creative process are all necessary components to writing successfully as well as following the conventions of any genre, and should all be at the forefront of a writers mind when they embark on their journey.

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