Being a huge historical fiction fan as well as a writer in this genre, I’ve often wondered: when does the detail become too much?
I know as a writer I often go between the two extremes, either putting way too much detail in and diverting from the story, or not putting enough in and making the setting non-existent.
I’ve recently been reading two historicals (both which I’ll review here when I’m done, so you’ll just have to guess for now :P) and both have so much detail in them that I’m sometimes overwhelmed. Both also take place in different cultures and also employ foreign words a great deal. One of the books has a glossary in the back, while the other doesn’t and sometimes makes it hard to figure out.
When I’m writing my Japanese historical novel, I often have to find a way to describe whatever foreign word I’m using to make sure the reader doesn’t get lost. I know my critique group has gotten me on some instances when I don’t give the context of what it means in the following sentences. At the same time you don’t want to make it too obvious because it can throw the reader out of the story too. It’s a precarious position 🙂
The best thing we can do as a historical writer–or any writer really–is just keep practicing–and reading other novels–to see how other authors craft their stories and to either follow their example or avoid any pitfalls they may make.