Writing Historical vs. Contemporary Fiction

Today we're honored to host award-winning author of contemporary western fiction, Paty Jager, who'll be sharing insights on writing historical vs. contemporary fiction. Please comment on Paty's post for a chance to win a prize and to show your thanks. Take it away, Paty....

Thank you for having me here today, Christine.

This is the first day of a two week blog tour. I love to give and you could be the winner! I will be giving away a $5 egift card to a commenter at each blog stop and will give a bag full of goodies to the person who follows me to the most blogs and a gift to the host who gets the most commenters. You can find the blog tour hosts at my blog: http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com or my website: http://www.patyjager.net

Is there a difference when writing historical and contemporary?

As an author of both, I would have to say yes. The easy to spot difference would be in the research. A historical requires not only the time and place be researched so the events that happen are accurate but the writer also has to know what people wore, how they lived, and the social events of the time period. A writer can’t just say I’m going to write a book set in Nebraska in 1870 and start writing. If they do and haven’t read anything about the state or the people who lived there at that time, they could be writing things that may not be accurate. People who read historical novels know their stuff and will call the writer on anything that isn’t correct. Especially if someone from Nebraska who knows their history picks up the book because of the locale and then it’s all wrong. That writer will never sell another book to that reader and they will most likely let everyone know that writer didn’t know what they were talking about.

The same goes for contemporary, the writer needs to know the area or the professions given to the characters in the book as well as the social tone and events in the area. But the good news for a person writing contemporary, there is no need to explain a cell phone, a washing machine or the everyday items that the reader is familiar with like they must be explained when writing a historical.
My downfall, and requires a lot of research when I write both historical and contemporary, is I tend to like to set the stories in real places. That requires I find out everything I can about the places. For contemporary, I get maps of the areas and guide books so I can write things that people know and that gives it a feel that I have actually been there even though I may not have been able to travel to the area. For historical books, I try to get a Sanborn map of the town. They actually had town maps back in the 1800’s and you can find them in most libraries or online.

With historical the writer has to also be conscious of the language used at the time of the story. There is a definite feel to Medieval, Regency, and Westerns. The proper or not so proper usage of the language is appropriate depending on where and when the story is set. The etiquette of the time also has a part in the language that is used.
Contemporary stories there would be a need to reflect the area or country the books are set or the characters are from, but it is easier to write contemporary language than staying in the historical atmosphere for the whole book.
If you’re a writer what are the pluses and minuses you see in writing contemporary or historical stories? As a reader have you ever had the feeling the writer hadn’t done their research?

Author Bio:

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance, Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, garnered 1st place in the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest, and Spirit of the Lake, the second book of the spirit trilogy, was a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.
You can learn more about Paty at her blog; www.patyjager.blogspot.com  her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag.

Book Blurb: Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job at the university. In the world of publish or perish, her mentor’s request for her assistance on a dig is just the opportunity she’s been seeking. If she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can—she’ll keep her department. She heads to Guatemala, but drug trafficking bad guys, artifact thieves, and her infatuation for her handsome guide wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.
DEA agent Tino Kosta, is out to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s deep undercover as a jaguar tracker and sometimes jungle guide, but the appearance of a beautiful, brainy anthropologist heats his Latin blood taking him on a dangerous detour that could leave them both casualties of the jungle.
Secrets of a Mayan Moon is available at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords