BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Writing Historical Fiction in a 200 Year old Town House – Come and Try It

I’M BACK in the classroom for the first time since 2020 and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. When I say classroom I mean a drawing room overlooking a Regency garden square and a dining room (minus grand table) painted according to Goethe’s theory of colour – very in vogue in the 1830s.

But don’t think immaculate elegance. The Regency Town House in Hove is a fascinating and much-loved building, but it’s more faded grandeur with a dash of shabby chic than a don’t-touch-anything grand house.

What better place to run an historical fiction writing workshop…or indeed a Festival of Art, Craft and History? All nine workshops in the festival are led by experts in their own field, all of whom are donating their time and knowledge to support The Regency Town House. 

I’ll tell you more about the other workshops on offer over the next few days, although if you can’t wait you can read about it HERE.

Writing Historical Fiction – the First Steps is a full two and half hours long. It takes place on Saturday June 18 and Early Bird tickets start at just £14. If you don’t live within easy travelling distance of Brighton and Hove, perhaps it could be part of a weekend break in a city bursting with history (and resturants and shops, all under a big Sussex sky.) Does it help to know that the Town House is a few metres from Hove beach…?

When thinking about historical fiction a few definitions might be useful. Almost everyone – including readers, writers, agents and publishers — seems to have his or her own idea of what historical fiction is and they are all different.

I’d like to think that my personal definition is practical, pragmatic and relative.

For me historical fiction is a story set before the author was born. That means they have to research not only what happened, but also the commanding ideas of that era and the day to day concerns.

Depending on their story, they may need to investigate how families lived together and grew apart, how health emergencies were treated and crime was detected.

They might also need to know not only what the average income was, but also how much a particular sector of society earned and, perhaps crucially, saved.

There are numerous ways of calculating how poor or how prosperous someone was in the past. I like Mark Twain’s approach

Don’t tell me how much you earn. Tell me how many days you have to work to buy a pair of shoes.
Mark Twain

Author of (among so many things) A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur.

Period fiction, on the other hand, focuses on a specific time usually during the lifetime of the author which can’t be labelled as contemporary fiction. It can require nearly as much research as historical fiction (but is infinitely more accessible).

I say that with feeling. I was bringing up my family in the 1980s and 1990s, but when I wrote a story set in 1987 there were many things I had to check and double check. Yes, mobile phones were around but who had one? Turned out it was very unlikely that my characters would and a whole story line melted away like butter on toast…

Wikimedia Commons

Back to the workshop.

It is aimed at new writers as well as writers with experience. Together we will explore the many forms a historical novel or short story can take, look at interesting and diverse research resources and the best place to start a story.

And we will write because thinking about writing is not the same as doing it.

In a supportive and encouraging atmosphere, we will work on short exercises that offer an insight into fundamental writing techniques. This is the place to try out new ideas and leap into a new writing experience.

Why write historical fiction?

For the unconvinced I think this quote sums up what it can do.

The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.
E. L.Doctorow
Author of Ragtime, an excellant novel set in the early 1900s made into an equally good film

Here’s the essentials about the workshop

11am to 1.30 pm Saturday 18th June
The Regency Town House
13 Brunswick Square
BN3 1EH

Tickets have just gone on sale so there’s still time to take advantage of the Early Bird price of £14.
Full price is £18
You can get more information and book tickets HERE

And if you have any questions (or a different way of defining historical fiction) drop me a line HERE

2 comments on “Writing Historical Fiction in a 200 Year old Town House – Come and Try It

  1. beth
    May 20, 2022

    sounds like the perfect setting

  2. bridget whelan
    May 20, 2022

    It is – there’s a great feel to the house and it would be wonderful it turned into a hub of creative learning

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This entry was posted on May 20, 2022 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .

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