I just saw a great movie that was a perfect example of conveying a time in history authentically.
(I confess that I am about a year to a year-and-a-half behind when it comes to watching movies. I can’t remember the last time my wife and I spent the money and time to go to a movie in a theater. Instead, we have a Netflix subscription and watch most of our movies either through that, or from our satellite dish DVR.)
The movie was “American Gangster.” It was incredibly well made, with exceptionally well done characters — and most of all, it came across as an authentic picture of the period (roughly 1968-75, I think?) in which the true-life events took place. They did this, obviously, with the clothing the actors wore, and the cars they drove (who could forget some of the sleek-to-boxy body styles and car grilles of the late ’60s to early ’70s in America). But they did a great job with the little touches, too: street scenes, building facades, furniture, apartments, the whole works.
Here’s the lesson, I think, for those of us who write: Writing historical fiction requires that we learn enough about the little details that we come off as authentic. You may not get every little detail about clothing and culture exactly right for your historical period — but you better get the details you use right.
So get out there and have some fun writing today. Pay attention to the details. Don’t bog down in research and don’t obsess over each little thing (question: what color were Hitler’s eyes?), but DO get those little things you choose use right.