Saturday, February 09, 2019

Watching my words: authenticity in historical fiction

I'm well into the editing/revision process for my Western historical romance (still untitled). I'm gradually realizing just how many challenges any historical fiction entails. One of the easiest ways to trip up: language usage.

For example, I thought the word "moniker" had a nice, folksy, Western sound. Then I thought to look up when that term was first used. Turns out, per the info I found, that it reached the USA "not long after" 1881. My story is set in 1874-1875. Sigh. I substituted "nickname," then checked whether that word was already in use. Fortunately it was, though I can't guarantee it would have been spelled the way we spell it today.

I thought I might have to make a similar substitution for "rucked up," but eventually learned that it dated from the late 18th century. I don't know for sure that it was used in the USA in my period, but it seems likely enough that I'm leaving it in place.

I've made a few more changes so far, and I'm only about one-fifth done with this editing pass. My attempt at diligence notwithstanding, I'm sure to overlook some word or phrase I should have checked. I will, however, ask my beta readers to flag any language they think might be anachronistic. (If you'd like to be a beta reader, and you're familiar with and fond of this genre, please email me at and let me know!)