I’m just starting up the Writing the Regency Workshop online for Outreach International Romance Writers, which works well since I just gave a talk on this at RWA National Conference, too. This had me thinking about what is it that folks need to get right, and I also asked the RWA Beau Monde Chapter about what they thought. Here’s the short form answer:
1 – Basic History. Even if you’re doing alternate history, you need to know some of the basics because this informs the characters–people live within the context of their world, and it helps to know what events formed their parents and grandparents and their family.
2 – Titles & Class System. Gossford Park is great to help us Yanks get an idea of a nuanced class system–Americans are used to rich/poor and something in between and that’s about it. Getting this right can be tricky since titles evolved over more than a thousand years, but it’s important–nothing can throw a reader out of a story faster than a title that makes no sense.
3 – British Sensibilities. BBC America is a big help here, so is being an anglophile. This one is another tricky spot since you can end up with characters who don’t seem as if they’ve ever been near England.
4. Legal Stuff. If your story premise has anything to do with inheritance or marriage laws, it’s time to break out the research books and make sure the basic premise works. If that doesn’t work the whole story can fall apart on you.
5. Society’s Attitudes. The 1800’s are similar to our world, but it’s also a different era–and while your characters may rebel against this, they should know what they’re up against. Folks back then knew about a woman’s place, and a man’s place, and that there were no teenagers, just adults and children. All of this can affect your characters.
6. Social/Personal Constraints. Honor mattered, so did duty–and while some folks might shrug those off, others did not and it said a lot about a character who did not take these to heart. This is also the stuff that makes for great conflict so it’s wonderful meat for a writer.
Now, of course, there’s lots more to know–but those are the big ones. We’ll get into the rest in the workshop.