Writing the Past [online]

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writing the past - tessa harris
Tue 30Jun
Thu 02Jul

Bringing historical fiction to life

Facilitator: Tessa Harris

This is a new, intensive online course on historical writing spans three consecutive evenings. It is for those with a passion for history and the desire to make it come alive through the medium of the novel.

* Please note that this is an online course, delivered via Zoom.

Event time: Tue 30th Jun 2020 at 7:30pm - Thu 2nd Jul 2020 at 9:00pm

At a glance

  • For fans of historical fiction
  • Your guide will be an experienced writer, journalist and teacher


Tuesday 30 June; Wednesday 1 July; Thursday 2 July – all sessions 7.30pm – 9.00pm BST

What participants will gain

  • Ideas and inspiration for finding your authentic writing voice
  • Insight into research techniques
  • The confidence to develop convincing plot lines and characters that draw in the modern reader
  • Ways to bring fictional history to life on the page

Lesson 1: Where to begin?

It’s said that the purpose of writing historical fiction is to hold up a mirror to contemporary society. We’ll kick off with a discussion about its purpose and the various sub-genres open to writers, such as crime, romance and mystery. Should you let facts get in the way of a good story? The limits to which you can bend the truth.

How best-selling authors do it.  We will take a look at the work of Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, Sarah Waters, Tracy Chevalier and more.

Lesson 2: Research

Thorough research is, of course, the keystone of any historical novel. To this end, we’ll be looking at how to research your favoured time period using online resources, specialist libraries and archives. We will discuss the importance of connecting with other researchers and groups.

Lesson 3: Authenticity, skill sets and critique

Giving an authentic feel to your fiction, as well as an authentic voice to your characters is, of course very important. You’ll be taught how to seamlessly incorporate period facts into your story. We’ll also study the various structural techniques that can be employed in historical fiction, including the nuances of dialogue.

The course includes plenty writing exercises to hone your skills, as well as peer critiquing. There will be plenty of time for a Q&A session.


Price Options

£50 Standard
£65 Support Hawkwood


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Practical Information

The course will be held in real time with the tutors via the Zoom platform. Sign up to this platform is free. You will need a laptop, computer, tablet or a smartphone – with an in-built camera and microphone – and a reliable internet connection. We will provide more information and joining instructions in advance of the first session.

Participants will be asked to complete a questionnaire in advance about the period in history that interests them and styles of writing they prefer.

The course is the same for both prices; please choose the level you can afford. Know that each booking you make is financially supporting our charity and facilitators and tutors, most of which have had to cancel all of their upcoming work. Thank you!

Tessa Harris

Tessa Harris is the author of nine published historical novels. Her debut, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, won the Romantic Times First Best Mystery Award 2012 in the US. She holds an MA in History from Oxford University and is also a journalist, playwright and screenwriter.

She has many years’ experience of researching and writing history, then translating it into fiction. Her nine historical novels to date have attracted a wide readership in America, where her publisher is based. She is also a qualified journalist and has written hundreds of articles for national magazines and newspapers. Her lively talks on medical mayhem in the 18th century and on Victorian crime have been heard by audiences the length and breadth of the country.

(© Image by Maureen McLean 2011)

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“…Harris paints her word-pictures with a master’s skill.”

"I am now able to critique my own writing. The course was pitched at just the right level."