Historically Accurate Dialogue

– This is a quick post with some tips and advice on writing historically accurate dialogue. This question is asked frequently and I’ve given some advice I get asked for a lot. I hope this helps you all out there, though it is a bit more general. Happy writing!

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Familiarize Yourself With The Time-Period

  • Read books from the time period you’re portraying in your story.
  • Watch movies, read plays, etc. and you’ll pick up some patterns, words, and phrases. 
  • The #1 way writers learn is reading. 
  • Research the history of the words you want to use. 

Pay Close Attention To The Details

  • Keep the dialogue short, as to not confuse the reader. 
  • Use your words carefully and don’t overdo dated language. 
  • Clarity is more important than historical accuracy. 
  • Syntax is everything. 
  • Use historically iconic phrases (sparingly and with caution).

Historical Text vs. Historical Fiction

  • Your reader didn’t sign up to read Shakespeare.
  • They’re aware that you’re from modern day and they will forgive you for using modern language.
  • Keep in mind the purpose of including this historically accurate language. You want it to feel authentic, but not clunky and convoluted.
  • Be cautious of going to extremes to make your characters sound accurate and give up the actual meaning of what they’re saying to do so.

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