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Going Old School: How to write Historical FanFic
By Tania

One of the greatest challenges to a writer of Spike/William/Angel/Angelus fiction is getting the details right. Knowing what they were wearing in any given era, what the hairstyles were, if there was running water. These are all things that can make or break a historical piece. There are few things more off-putting to a reader than finding historical inaccuracies in a story that detract from the plot. Fortunately, there are many many sites devoted to keeping you accurate, it just takes a little planning and homework. To aide my fellow writers I have come up with a little plan of action.

1) Get Inspired.

Find a period you want to write about. I'll use my story Holiday as an example. In Over the Rainbow Angel made the comment that the "Tower wasn't so bad". I was instantly inspired. I had to know what happened in the Tower, so I got to work researching the Tower of London.

2) Check the Canon.

Unless you are writing an alternate universe fic, you need to know what was going on at the time you are writing about, according to the canon, in other words, what has been proven on the show. If Angel had ever said he hadn't been to London after Williams turning my story wouldn't have fit in with canon. To help with this you can use sites, like mine, that have timelines, also check transcript sites, like Buffyworld.

3) Get an Angle.

If you are paying attention to what the characters have said they like you can usually find a reason to place them in the city you want them to visit. When I was writing Holiday I used Angel's love of torture to get him to the tower, and Darla's love of chaos to get her and Drusilla out of town.

4) Get the Details.

Next you need to get deep into the era and location you are writing about. Find actual locations. When I wanted Angel to play in the tower, I went to Google and searched for the Tower, when it had last been used as a place of torture, what the guards wore, when the changing happened, what rooms were open to the public, etc. I then searched spain.com for historical festivals that were taking place around the same time I wanted Spike and Angel to be at the Tower. It took a bit of searching, but it was worth it, because I knew it was fitting with canon and historically accurate, which is always gratifying.

5) Get more Details.

When you think you've got enough details, go get more. Go to a historical costume site and find pictures of clothing from the era. The visual will help you describe your characters more accurately, letting readers truly see the character, even if they've never seen the character's television alter ego. This applies to more than fashion and amenities. If you are going to have a torture scene, take an online tour of the Tower of London. If you are going to have them storm an impenetrable location you had better know what weapons were available. As the Judge taught us, times change.

6) Start Writing.

Once you have an array of notes and bookmarked sites you can begin writing. Map out your story, interjecting pieces of history throughout. Think of the story as the soup and the details as the spices. You can have one without the other, but why would you want to? There is always going to be someone else in the world that will read your story and get the history, it makes it more real for your readers, and makes you a better writer. Once you are done with your first draft Spell Check. This wonderful tool is on your computer for a reason. Many spell checkers also have a grammar checker, which can help even more.

7) Get a Beta Reader.

Like a good editor, a beta reader can help you innumerable ways. They will catch your spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, and canon inconsistencies. If you get a piece back from a beta reader saying 'Perfect' get another beta reader. There are always improvements to be made. It also helps to tell a Beta what you are looking for. If you aren't sure your plot is flowing, let them know, and hopefully you will get some suggestions back. If you are having trouble with your commas, find a beta that has grammar strengths listed.

8) Rewrite.

Once you have received suggestions or edits from a beta reader, sit down and write again. The rewriting phase can actually be fun. You may think of new elements to add, new quips to interject or even a new ending. I often add some of my best bits in this final write. By this point the story itself is worked out and you can insert a few more details to bring it all together.

9) Add a Header.

Before posting a story on the internet it is a good idea to add a header. Standard headers look like this:

TITLE: Insert Title Here

AUTHOR: This is you silly

RATING: G- all ages, PG- some intimacy, mild language, PG-13-fleshy touching, strong language, R- actual nudity, sex, course language, NC-17- graphic sex with excessive detail, rape, torture, etc.

SUMMARY: This is where you put where is your story taking place, what inspired you, and anything else you think the reader needs to know.

PAIRING: This can be either who is getting fleshy, or major players in the story.

SPOILERS: If you are giving away major plot details in your story, put a spoiler, the shows don't air at the same time throughout the world, and you don't want to ruin it for someone else.

DISTRIBUTION: If you don't mind people reposting your story, let them know. Or, by the same token, you can tell them to keep there mitts off.

DISCLAIMER: Unless you are Joss himself, put a disclaimer on your story, Mutant Enemy, Fox and Joss own both shows.

10) Post it.

Once you are satisfied that your story is all that you want it to be, find a host. If you have your own site, that is a natural beginning. There are also dozens of e-mail groups you can join and post to. Fanfiction Archives that will host a story for you, and others like the BFA that you can post to directly. Get it out there, enjoy the feedback, and keep writing.

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Copyright 2002-2006 - Tania
Violators will be whipped until it isn't fun any more!