So, what is “Modern Historical Fiction”, right?
Well, my work in progress (novel) is Modern Historical. It’s set primarily in the 1980s, although readers will be given a glimpse of the early 1990s. 2020 update: Said “work in progress” has since been published – my novel, Distorted Perceptions.
We can debate as to where the line is drawn.
Some would say that, if anyone is alive today who remembers a given period of time, then it’s Modern Historical. It would generally be accepted that the 1950s through to the end of the 1990s qualifies.
I should, as a side note, point out that terms other than “Modern Historical Fiction” are also in use, and really there is no official, clear genre that can be applied here. “Flashback Fiction” might be worth investigating, as a search term – along with the relevant decade or decades. For example, “1980s Flashback Fiction” or “1990s Flashback Fiction”. If you add a note about “written after the year 2000”, it might help. Maybe “current fiction with (1980s?) settings”.
And “Flashback Fiction” is not, of course, to be confused with the term “flash fiction”, which refers to very short stories.
As to anything set later than 1999, but more recently than – well, now, pretty much – as in, Contemporary…
This is a grey area, and one that it’s not easy to sell publishers or readers on. If your novel is set in 2005, it’s basically “dated” – neither Historical nor Contemporary.
If you can’t “move” the characters from 2005, then it might be a case of holding on to the manuscript until it is old enough to be considered Historical. Harsh, I know – but that’s pretty much how it is.
What defines Historical Fiction, in general?
Obviously, the story must take place in a historical period – but is that sufficient?
In my opinion, the historical setting does need to play a central role in the story.
The genre may be more specific than simply historical of course, and genres can be combined. A Historical Romance, for example, would need to meet the requirements of both Historical Fiction and Romance.
Is it easier to write Modern Historical Fiction, as opposed to stories set in more ancient times?
The obvious answer would be that it is – as, from a research point of view, it’s easier to find out about more recent time periods.
Everything has its down side, however. Mistakes will be spotted more readily.
If you weren’t alive during the period you’re writing about, try talking to people who were, as well as doing research online, and reading relevant books.
If you were born at the time, do your research anyway, as you can’t rely upon memory for every detail, particularly if you were a child, during the era in question.
Keep in mind that you may have to research aspects of life prior to the period that you actually cover, in order to relate fully to the experiences of your characters.
Character names are important.
Classic names work well, but avoid modern, trendy ones, that may not even have existed, at the time. Replace these with “dated” names, which would have been the trendy ones.
It’s easy enough to Google the popular given names for any particular era, and remember to take the age of the characters into account, too.
I love writing Modern Historical.
It’s not significantly different from writing Contemporary Fiction, and I get to address many of the social issues that are close to my heart – but the music is better (personal opinion only), and no one has a mobile phone, or Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts.
This post is a slightly updated version of one published on my previous blog.