The past few weeks I’ve studied historical dialects. Part of writing historical novels is knowing how your character’s speak. It’s like learning pieces of a new language. I’ve researched Britain’s wide variety of accents, and I’ve studied word etymology to find historical context for different dialects.
While working on this side of things, I find novels in my genre and begin reading. Each time I encounter a “dialect” word or phrase, I mark it down with a definition. I create a fairly extensive list. I jot down the things I don’t understand, or the things that create a picture of the scene in my mind. This helps me build an awareness of the time period, and it helps me paint a picture of everyday life for the characters I’m trying to create in my own novel.
It’s also about building the believability into the story. Our readers won’t fall in love with what we’ve written unless they believe it’s plausible.
Historical fiction has to be researched. Minute facts build the plot and create that wonderful thing we all love about our genre–being transported through time. Our readers have a desire to time travel. If we’ve done the work, they get to relax and fall in love with another period of history. It’s part of what I love about writing. We get to make the past exciting and share these moments in time with our readers.