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Once Upon a Time It Was Now: The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction

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While a historian stands firmly planted in the present and looks back into the past, a historical novelist has a more immediate task: to set readers in the midst of bygone events and lead them forward, allowing them to live and feel the wonderment, fear, hope, triumph, and pain as if they were there. Learning historical stories is easy, creating stories based in history is While a historian stands firmly planted in the present and looks back into the past, a historical novelist has a more immediate task: to set readers in the midst of bygone events and lead them forward, allowing them to live and feel the wonderment, fear, hope, triumph, and pain as if they were there. Learning historical stories is easy, creating stories based in history is not. In Once Upon a Time It Was Now, best-selling author James Alexander Thom (Follow the River, From Sea to Shining Sea, Sign-Talker) gives you the tools you need to research and create stories born from the past that will move and inspire modern readers. His comprehensive approach includes lessons on how to:


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While a historian stands firmly planted in the present and looks back into the past, a historical novelist has a more immediate task: to set readers in the midst of bygone events and lead them forward, allowing them to live and feel the wonderment, fear, hope, triumph, and pain as if they were there. Learning historical stories is easy, creating stories based in history is While a historian stands firmly planted in the present and looks back into the past, a historical novelist has a more immediate task: to set readers in the midst of bygone events and lead them forward, allowing them to live and feel the wonderment, fear, hope, triumph, and pain as if they were there. Learning historical stories is easy, creating stories based in history is not. In Once Upon a Time It Was Now, best-selling author James Alexander Thom (Follow the River, From Sea to Shining Sea, Sign-Talker) gives you the tools you need to research and create stories born from the past that will move and inspire modern readers. His comprehensive approach includes lessons on how to:

46 review for Once Upon a Time It Was Now: The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharyn

    James Alexander Thom, author of "Follow the River," is a master of the historical novel. In this new book, he gives advice on how to write historical novels, and how to consider the past as a real and vibrant time, rather than a sepia photo in one's memory. The book is filled with rich anecdotes from American history ("In the 2nd Seminole War in Florida (1835-1842) a band of Seminoles led by Wild Cat ambushed and robbed William Forbes's traveling troupe of actors, stealing 18 trunks of costumes. James Alexander Thom, author of "Follow the River," is a master of the historical novel. In this new book, he gives advice on how to write historical novels, and how to consider the past as a real and vibrant time, rather than a sepia photo in one's memory. The book is filled with rich anecdotes from American history ("In the 2nd Seminole War in Florida (1835-1842) a band of Seminoles led by Wild Cat ambushed and robbed William Forbes's traveling troupe of actors, stealing 18 trunks of costumes. The Seminoles later showed up for treaty talks dressed as Hamlet and his entourage."), and commentary from other historical writers on such topics as "How does a historical novelist differ from a historian?" It is an interesting book for the historically minded reader and a valuable resource for an aspiring writer.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

    I received this book through the FirstReads Giveaways; these are my honest thoughts. I'm historian, not a creative writer. As an avid reader, I have avoided historical fiction because bad history makes the story unbearable for me. I agree with every line of this book. Historians can absolutely be snobs, sure, but bad history is just lazy. But on the other hand, I don't expect every historical fiction writer to go get a history degree. This book is a perfect middle ground - he lays out the ground I received this book through the FirstReads Giveaways; these are my honest thoughts. I'm historian, not a creative writer. As an avid reader, I have avoided historical fiction because bad history makes the story unbearable for me. I agree with every line of this book. Historians can absolutely be snobs, sure, but bad history is just lazy. But on the other hand, I don't expect every historical fiction writer to go get a history degree. This book is a perfect middle ground - he lays out the groundwork for the writer to get the history, whenever the focus, right, which will only improve their story. I approve so much of what he has to say that I'm passing this one on to my favorite author friend!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Clifford

    Very readable and engaging. Experienced writers will not be surprised by anything here, but the book is a good summary of the importance of research, the value of historical accuracy, and the need to avoid anachronism (in its various shapes). Writers of other genres of fiction will also find value here. Thom is writing about a particular strain of historical fiction, one that is heavy on the history and light on the fiction. I read the book, though, because the book I'm writing is more fiction t Very readable and engaging. Experienced writers will not be surprised by anything here, but the book is a good summary of the importance of research, the value of historical accuracy, and the need to avoid anachronism (in its various shapes). Writers of other genres of fiction will also find value here. Thom is writing about a particular strain of historical fiction, one that is heavy on the history and light on the fiction. I read the book, though, because the book I'm writing is more fiction than history (with historical elements forming a backdrop, but without historical figures playing a part). Still, Thom's tips give the writer a great deal to think about.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    This well thought out guide provides easy to understand and follow steps that will help novice and experienced writers write historical fiction. Example and exercises illustrate how to be accurate and develop credible fiction. The chapter titled “Genealogy is like the potato” provides a practical and useful way for writers to develop their research skills and multiple ways the data rich information can be used in developing historical characters. The author provided an index with key figures, me This well thought out guide provides easy to understand and follow steps that will help novice and experienced writers write historical fiction. Example and exercises illustrate how to be accurate and develop credible fiction. The chapter titled “Genealogy is like the potato” provides a practical and useful way for writers to develop their research skills and multiple ways the data rich information can be used in developing historical characters. The author provided an index with key figures, media titles, and subjects. Goodreads Giveaway randomly chose me to receive this book. Although encouraged, I was under no obligation to write a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jim Misko

    Learn from an expert in historical fiction. This book lays out how James Alexander Thom researched and wrote some of the best early American historical fiction around. This book should be on your shelf, red, ticketed with stickies that return you to cogent parts of the book for reference. It is a winner now as it was when it was first published by a university press. There is no way you can go wrong reading it and following its precepts.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nissen

    Very informative for the inspiring writer.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Z

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

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    Tynan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joy

  11. 4 out of 5

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  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

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    Thomas E.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Judy

  15. 5 out of 5

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  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brent

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna Henke

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    Leslie Smith

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    Shauna

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    Laura

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    H. Dair Brown

  23. 4 out of 5

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    Frederick Rotzien

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    The Irregular Reader

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    Loraine Hunziker

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    Marsha

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    Brooke

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    Sarah Taylor-Cruz

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