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Old 11-07-2010, 07:19 AM   #1
sportourer1
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Historical fiction - how factual?

How do people feel about historical accuracy within fiction? Is it vital or can we become to intense and lose the thrill of writing anf reading fiction?
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:25 AM   #2
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My preference is that the author should always use the facts as they are known, even if it makes for difficulties in plotting. That shows the proper respect for the historical facts. After that it is down to the writer's interpretation; the best that an author can do is to present a plausible version that fits the known facts. All readers understand that when a writers creates dialogue in an historical novel then of course they are "making it up" but that shouldn't detract from the enjoyment for the reader.
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:38 AM   #3
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Close to my own thoughts.

In my novel I try to create both the atmosphere in terms of buildings, travel, conditions of living etc but also realistic characters with imaginative behaviours and points of view as would have been held at the time. That said I think some people have a poor idea of how people genuinely lived in days of yore.

My novel is set in Georgian London and I hope I have the atmosphere about right within which my imagination can roam free
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Old 11-07-2010, 08:43 AM   #4
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How do people feel about historical accuracy within fiction? Is it vital or can we become to intense and lose the thrill of writing anf reading fiction?
It's absolutely essential, to my mind.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:02 AM   #5
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In my novel I think I have the balance correct even down to general political atmosphere at the time. I was accused however of including a "modern sex scene" whatever that means!
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:14 AM   #6
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I agree with HarryT (ooh, a rhyme).

Something to always consider is what kind of impact certain materials will have upon the intended audience. Fans, not the casual perusers, of historical fiction are most likely going to have a solid fact base and probably an interest in history. Contradicting something along those lines will do exactly what an author wants to avoid: break the illusion and take them out of the experience at a minimum. Worse, it might make the reader angry.

Heh, that's kind of funny about the sex scene, though. I suppose people considering Ye Olde Englishe types of settings don't expect much besides a Puritanical approach to sex? Eh, who knows?
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:19 AM   #7
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Indeed and the Georgian period was even worse than the subsequent Victorian society for the hidden world of vice that existed. Quite what constitutes "20th century" sex is perhaps best left to the imagination
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Old 11-07-2010, 11:40 AM   #8
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How do people feel about historical accuracy within fiction? Is it vital or can we become to intense and lose the thrill of writing anf reading fiction?
I think that historical fiction should be well researched and that the events and actions of the historical figures should be as accurate as possible. I like to think that I'm learning something when I'm reading it.

I believe that most of our factual history has been written by the victors and isn't as factual as many believe it to be. Some of my favourite historical fiction has been when the author has taken the historical events and written it from an alternate view.

Almost all the historical fiction that I read takes great liberty on the attitudes and beliefs of the main characters. They are characters we can relate to rather then characters that are historically accurate. Most readers can't or don't want to deal with the true attitudes of the time.

For something like sex scenes it's open to the author's imagination to what it was like at the time. Keep it fictional and entertaining just like modern novels.
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:00 PM   #9
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I try. I think my critic was surprised that brothels existed in Georgian London, especially catering for exotic tastes. Nothing was further from the truth. London at the time was even more a city of contrasting values than now.

It was also a melting pot of immigrants some of whom were plotting against their hosts - as today!
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Old 11-07-2010, 05:53 PM   #10
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It doesn't really matter how conservative a society is about sex and prostitution, it's still going to happen in bountiful amounts and fashions.

Not to criticize your critic, but I think the fellow might have a bit of naiveté about the reality of coital relations *throughout* the ages. Greater societal attitudes aside, sex happens. Kind of a lot.

Unless this brand of historical fiction requires a writing style synonymous with the period, that kind of complaint is a little silly.
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:01 PM   #11
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It doesn't really matter how conservative a society is about sex and prostitution, it's still going to happen in bountiful amounts and fashions.

Not to criticize your critic, but I think the fellow might have a bit of naiveté about the reality of coital relations *throughout* the ages. Greater societal attitudes aside, sex happens. Kind of a lot.

Unless this brand of historical fiction requires a writing style synonymous with the period, that kind of complaint is a little silly.
Well said.

And, to the OP's question, accurate period detail is essential for me. Without it, the verisimilitude is gone and I'm yanked out of the story.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:39 PM   #12
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I think it should be accurate but it doesn't have to be perfectly accurate. Otherwise, it may read as a text book, which I would hate. I love Steven Pressfield and I think he does an excellent job at this. His books are also surprisingly emotional. At the end though, he'll say that he changed some details like using modern day names for places, tweaked something, or just hypothesized on what could have happened. None of it bothers me and he doesn't completely rewrite history.
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Old 11-08-2010, 12:37 AM   #13
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I think it can be taken too far. One of my favorite series is by Michael Jecks, he was working up to a plot point involving the King of France getting married for the second (or third?) time.

But then he discovered the date he thought was wrong, and the marriage happened a couple months before. So he had to scrap that. But if he hadn't mentioned this in the foreward to the next book in the series, no one would have realized it.

He probably should have ignored history and kept to the original plan (it felt a bit jarring)
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:31 AM   #14
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From a reader's perspective, I think it's essential to be accurate with actual events and historic figures. However, if I'm reading historical fiction, I'm probably not reading it to be inundated with historical fact. That's why I read non-fiction. Instead, I'm looking for a story, but the setting and feel must be accurate. So I want truth, but I want most of my details to be about the story, not the time period, unless essential to the plot.
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Old 11-08-2010, 03:17 PM   #15
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Part of the fun is weaving a palusible but ficticious plot around a series of actual events
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