Author John Crowley on Historical Fiction

In his essay, “The Accu-Thump of Googletarity,” author John Crowley gives his take on writing historical fiction. The particular example he uses is from the World War II era in America, but the principles can be applied to whatever historical period (medieval or any other) you are writing about. The importance of historical fiction can often be found in the small details. As Crowley puts it, “the small details of common life give actuality, aliveness, and thickness to a historical story in the same way they do to a present-day story.” When writing your novel, think about these small components and infuse them into your story to give the setting life and validity.

John Crowley is the award winning fiction author of such books as Little, Big and Four Freedoms. He has written over ten novels and numerous short stories. Crowley lives in Massachusetts.

2 thoughts on “Author John Crowley on Historical Fiction”

  1. Thanks for the link, Steven. Good article and a nice little commentary in your summary. I think the key here is “infuse.” Different than “sledgehammer” for instance. I have read historical novels where period detail is so prominent that it is almost one of the characters of the story. Too much detail, in other words, is distracting. Infusing the detail in just the right way is challenging, and something I am trying to keep in mind in my own novel.

  2. David — I agree. I have read plenty of historical fiction novels that have a lot of narrative, making them sound more textbooks than fiction. These lengthy bits of narrative — if used repeatedly — can become burdensome to the reader. I feel a story flows better if historical details are mixed in with dialogue or in tiny blocks of exposition around scenes of dialogue, though I am guilty myself of creating long paragraphs of narrative to describe a castle setting for instance.

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