Tag: Erica Vetsch

Erica Vetsch: Putting Historical Figures In Fiction

Erica Vetsch here. Thank you so much to the P&P ladies for inviting me to join you again! I love visiting with you all. That being said, I am on vacation today…sitting in a car, driving the 1700 miles back to frigid Minnesota from beautiful sunny Florida where I was visiting my awesome parents. I will most-likely be unable to respond personally to your messages until I get into my hotel room for the evening, so please, bear with me!

Using Historical Figures in Your Fiction

Have you ever read a novel that used an historical figure as one of the characters? Was it fun for you to ‘recognize’ a character and see the author’s portrayal of how they might have been in a given set of circumstances? Did the character ring true to what you knew about them?

I love stories that have cameo appearances by historical figures, especially famous cowboys and lawmen and outlaws of the Old West, or presidents, soldiers, and personalities of the Civil War, but when I read one and I see things that are glaringly off with an historical figure’s portrayal, I tend to cringe and put the book down for something else.

So how does an author go about using real people in their novels? Can you use a real person in fiction legally? Are there any rules?

First, it is certainly legal to use historical figures in your fiction. Writing about Richard the Lionheart or Wyatt Earp won’t get you into any trouble, even if you mischaracterize them or portray them in a less than glowing light. (FYI, writing about current public figures has different laws about slander, libel, and image copyright, so research those laws if you want to write contemporary fiction. Even flattering treatments of people who are alive and kicking can land you in a legal tangle.) Second, writing about historical figures doesn’t have any ‘rules’ per se, but there are some guidelines that I try to follow that will endear you to readers of historical fiction.

  • Learn the basic facts and personality of the character by reading history books, watching documentaries, and if possible, reading primary sources such as diaries, autobiographies, and first-hand newspaper accounts. (No matter which historical figure you use, there will be a reader or two out there who is an ‘expert’ on that character and jealously guards their canon. As much as possible, try to get the history correct—or you might hear about it later!) Some things that might be important to consider are: the character’s family situation, how they make decisions, attitudes and philosophies about social issues, familiar catchphrases or gestures (Think Teddy Roosevelt and “Bully!”) etc. You will also be able to create dialogue that feels authentic if you can read their own words and get a sense of their speech patterns and cadences from reading primary sources.
  • Create a timeline of the character’s life, paying particular attention to the time and setting of your story. If you are going to include an historical figure in a fictional situation, make sure they weren’t demonstrably elsewhere in real life. For example, if your scene takes place in St. Louis on November 19, 1863 and you have President Lincoln show up, EEEK! Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address on that day and couldn’t possibly have been in Missouri at that time.
  • Stay true to the things you know about the character. Lincoln was tall, skeletal, with a dry wit. George Armstrong Custer was ambitious, overconfident, with a near-obsessive devotion to his wife. Clara Barton was a shy child, a determined crusader, and an autocratic leader. Readers will respond to an historical figure in your fiction that ‘feels’ like the character they already know.
  • When in doubt, err on the side of historical accuracy. Many people read historical fiction in order to learn while they read. Often, readers will take as gospel what they read of historical events and people in fiction, relying on the author to do the research and present it in a truthful way. Sometimes, you want or need an historical figure to do something in your story that you can’t authenticate through research. That’s fine, but be sure that you are staying within the bounds of historical accuracy when you do. (Unless you’re obviously writing a spoof piece like Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.) If you include a fictional variation that might be misconstrued, use an author note to explain to the reader what is factual and what is fictional.

An example from my own work is the story A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas. I used several historical figures from Dodge City who would be familiar to readers of western fiction. Because they were used fictitiously, I wanted to make certain that readers understood which characters were historical and which were fictional, and which characteristics for real people I had manufactured for the sake of the story. I included an Author’s Note so that readers would feel I was ‘playing fair’ and not misleading them with inaccurate historical information. Here’s that Author’s Note as it appeared in the beginning of the book:

Author’s Note: While most of the characters in this story are fictitious, the characters of Charlie Basset, Luke Short, and Bat Masterson are taken from the annals of Dodge City history. I have tried to stay true to the historical record, with one noted exception: Bat Masterson’s proclivity for keeping printed material stacked in his office is fictional and entirely of my own creation.

In my story, it was important that a piece of paper get lost in the sheriff’s office. Since Bat Masterson was the sheriff during the setting of my story, I needed him to be a bit of a paper hoarder. But I also wanted to be clear to the reader that I had no historical facts that would indicate that he was an office slob. J Hence the author’s note.

Questions for you!

  1. If you are a writer, have you ever included historical figures in your fiction? If so, who?
  2. If you’re a reader, do you have a favorite novel that included an appearance by an historical figure?

Answer in the comments below to be entered to win a copy of my newest release, 7 Brides for 7 Texas Rangers!

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Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, http://www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!

Welcome Guest – Erica Vetsch!!!

Are you anticipating Christmas yet? Only about six weeks to go. (I know, it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but…Christmas!!)

This month, my newest novel, A Child’s Christmas Wish released. This story is set in the pioneer town of Berne, Minnesota, and the characters are immigrants from Switzerland. And if anyone knows how to celebrate Christmas, it’s the Swiss. Even in the harsh realities of frontier living, they found a way to celebrate the joys of the season.

One of the Swiss Christmas traditions I found most interesting was the widespread use of Advent Calendars. Swiss parents use Advent Calendars to teach their children patience and anticipation in equal measure. They want their children to learn that anticipating an event can heighten the joy of its arrival.

Swiss Advent calendars can take many forms from opening a little window to reveal the day to lighting a new candle each night to building a Christmas train, adding a car each day.

In fact, in some Swiss villages, the whole town becomes an Advent Calendar. Each evening beginning on the first of December, a different citizen hosts the day’s Advent party by decorating and opening one of the ground-floor windows of their home. Hot drinks and treats are served through the window to their friends and neighbors, carols are sung, and much fun is had by all. The next night, it is someone else’s turn to host.

Doesn’t that sound like a great way to bring a neighborhood together?

I love that so many of these traditions were brought to this country by immigrants brave enough to strike out for the New World, bringing the best of the Old World with them as they traveled.

Questions for you:

  1. Do you have any Christmas Traditions based upon your family’s origins?
  2. Do you have a special Christmas recipe that you only bring out during the holidays?
  3. Do you use an Advent Calendar?

Answer any or all of these questions in the comments to be entered to win a copy of A Child’s Christmas Wish.

About the book:

A Baby for Christmas The only Christmas gift Oscar Rabb’s four-year-old daughter prays for is one the widower can’t provide: a baby sibling. And when his neighbor’s house burns down, he’s willing to open his home to pregnant and widowed Kate Amaker and her in-laws—but not his heart. Even if his little girl’s convinced Kate’s unborn child is the answer to her wish.

Kate quickly sees the generous but aloof Oscar has little interest in growing closer to his houseguests. Still, she intends to make the coming Christmas a season to remember for his daughter. And as Oscar starts to open up to her, Kate can’t help picturing just how wonderful the holidays—and a future together—might be.

About the author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, http://www.ericavetsch.com where you can learn about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!

SEVEN RULES OF COWBOY HAT ETIQUETTE by ERICA VETSCH

Seven Rules of Cowboy Hat Etiquette

VetschcowboyhatJohn Wayne, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, James Arness. Epic cowboy actors all. When you call them to your mind, what are they all wearing?

A cowboy hat! The iconic image of the Old West.

Though there are many different styles of cowboy hat, they all mark the wearer as a cowboy. From a ten-gallon, to a wide-awake, to a silver-belly, they’re all cowboy hats. But are you aware that there is a certain code, an etiquette if you will, to wearing one?

 

Doing a basic search of cowboy hat etiquette turned up lots of rules and requirements, and I’ve distilled it down to seven that seemed fairly consistent.

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Here are Seven Rules of Cowboy Hat etiquette:

 

Rule 1: Always remove your hat when you enter a place where people live. It’s fine to keep it on when you enter a public building like a bank or store. Exceptions are churches and courtrooms.

 

Rule 2: The first time you meet a lady take your hat off when you say howdy. After that, it’s fine to tip your hat to her.

 

Rule 3: Never let your hat touch your bed. It’s bad luck.

 

Rule 4: Rest your hat on the crown. The crown will hold its shape better than if you rest it on the brim. Also, if any good luck falls your way, it might land in your upturned hat.

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Rule 5: Keep your hands off anyone else’s hat. Touching someone else’s hat is a serious fight-starting move.

 

Rule 6: Never tip your hat to another man. It’s like calling the fellow a girlie-boy.

 

Rule 7: Never show the inside of your hat while you’re holding it. Hold it against your chest or your leg.

 

Follow these rules, and you’ll never be considered a rude buckaroo!

 

Vetsch headshotevetsch-5Author Bio: Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

 

 

VetschCactusCreekChallenge_F-page-001About the book: Anything he can do, I can do better. At least that was what Cassie Bucknell thought before she pinned on Ben Wilder’s badge and took to patrolling the streets of Cactus Creek, Texas. Cassie has been in love with Ben since primer school, but Ben treats her like a little sister. When they are picked to swap jobs for a month as part of the annual Cactus Creek Challenge in their Texas hometown, the schoolhouse is thrown into an uproar, the jail becomes a temporary bank vault, and Cassie and Ben square off in a battle of wills that becomes a battle for their hearts.

 

 

I’d love to give a copy of The Cactus Creek Challenge to one US resident who comments on the blog.

 

Here is the Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Cactus-Creek-Challenge-Erica-Vetsch/dp/1630589276

 

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