So, what makes a believable historical letter, one that will be enjoyed by generations to come? Romance experts Mills & Boon have provided us with their top ten tips on composing the ultimate historical missive for characters about to put pen to paper.
1) Choose the right location to write in – all great historical letters seem to have been composed in garrets, locked towers and mansion houses. The perfect historical letter cannot be written while you sit in the local coffee house with a super skinny latte frappuccino at your side! Think about sitting at a chunky oak desk or leaning wistfully against the bough of an ancient tree.
2) Take time to choose your materials. Splash out on that special vellum paper, that gorgeous pen where the ink flows just so… perhaps you want to invest in a quill and ink for that touch of authenticity.
3) Don’t worry about formalities, be you. Your voice is what will make the letter special. Great letters come from the heart and the handwritten page is a place where you can tell it like it is.
4) Fill your letter with memories – letters about memories are wonderful as they show things from your perspective that may surprise the recipient. Good historical letters reveal the writer’s personal version the world.
5) Give your letter context – describe where you are and what you are doing in your life to give your letter a background. Perhaps you are stepping aboard a clipper ship to discover the New World, or are waving loved ones goodbye as they journey to war. Tell exactly where you are in history and bring it to life.
6) Engage the senses- mention all the senses to make your letter memorable. Are you drinking hot tea from a cool china cup while you write? Are you gazing out across your mansion estate? Can you smell the candle that flickers as you write on the yellowed pages?
7) Use appropriate language – are there words that relate to the time you are writing in? A few ‘thou arts’ and ‘enduring loves’ in the right places will instantly place your letter in the correct era. Author Diane Gaston does this brilliantly in ‘Lady of Notoriety’ when her heroine pens a heartfelt letter to her hero signing it, ‘My enduring love remains with you forever.’
8) Think about what you are trying to communicate – are you expressing a feeling, offering advice or making someone laugh? How do you want the recipient to feel when they have read your letter?
9) Feel free to add a stylistic flourish or two to your manuscript – one of the joys of writing a historical letter by hand is that you can finally use those swirling ‘a’s and sophisticated ‘y’s you practiced for hours on end at school.
10) Finally, choose your method of delivery wisely – will your letter be delivered by the postman, secreted away by a servant or left mysteriously on the mantelpiece behind the candlesticks?
Do you have a flourish for historical letters? Are you a huge fan of Mills & Boon historical romances? Share your comments in the box below.