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Old 11-09-2010, 12:52 AM   #16
Luke King
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Mills and Boon (and perhaps other romance publishers) have a term for historical fiction that isn't accurate. I can't remember what it is, but basically it allows the characters to speak and act the way people do today in a supposedly historical setting.

Personally, I'd prefer things to be as accurate as possible, though I wouldn't have any objection to reading a piece of absurdist fiction with a historical setting.
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Old 11-09-2010, 12:03 PM   #17
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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?
As a reader, I'd say: if you do what Hollywood did (Gladiator, Troy, 300, Alexander, Hercules, etc...), I'll come to burn your manuscript before you publish it!



Historical fiction HAS to be accurate or alternate. Between those, it's just a good story with a crappy background. Wich makes a crappy book.

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Old 11-09-2010, 12:05 PM   #18
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Anecdote: The parts of the Name of the Rose where Umberto Eco was criticized of being too modern, were the dialogues he transcribed from original medieval manuscripts...
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Old 11-09-2010, 12:09 PM   #19
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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?

As accurate as possible. All you need is a wrong detail and you immediately lose an informed reader. Imagine a novel set in Regency London where people drove cars and used mobile phones. Some of the details I've seen are just as impossible, if not quite as obvious.

It can be a bit of a problem fitting in the thinking of the time so modern readers can identify with it, but it's part of the fun.

I'm reading a novel set in 1785 Ireland, where the married hero asks the heroine to be his "partner". She gets pregnant, and continues to live with her well-born foster parents, be received in public, and his family are all delighted about it. Yeah, that would happen.
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Old 11-09-2010, 04:30 PM   #20
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The hero of my book has the almost blind patriotism that was common at the time, how else could the educated officer class walk toward the guns at Waterloo? However he is an atheist and a hedonist which was also true of the educated in the early 19th century as the new sciences cast doubt on religion and the after-life
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Old 11-09-2010, 06:12 PM   #21
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Historical accuracy? Absolutely. It only takes one wrong reference to throw me clean out of the book and remind me that I'm not living in the Nth century, I'm just reading a book about it, and a book by an author who gets things wrong at that -- or, worse, a book by an author who doesn't even care. If there is a fact, an attitude, an event, even a reaction by one person to another, it needs to be accurate. I read historical fiction (note: not romances!) for periods I'm familiar with, and if something's noticeably wrong, it's going to rankle.

On the other hand, I also don't want lectures. No lectures, no infodumps, and especially no demonstrations of how much the author knows. Take the guy whose alternate Civil War book I ragged on so much a while back: I read (or tried to read) the excerpt, and it was horribly bogged down by painful detail, notably the biographies of various characters (even the minor ones). He had clearly done a great deal of research for the book, and wanted to make sure the reader knew it. That's not the way to do it either. A historical novel should have the same level of detail and background as any other novel, just different details. The period, and the attitudes of that period, should influence the characters' actions just as modern ones do characters of today.

Also (and creators of the first D&D movie, I'm talking to you here!) there's no art to sticking a modern character, acting exactly like a modern person, into a historical era and having nobody notice. EileenG's Irish example is exactly the kind of thing I mean. A large part of the enjoyment of a period piece is seeing the characters react as characters of the time rather than the people next door. Modern characters in theater costumes are no fun at all. So get it right, people!

Incidentally, I would have put down that story that EileenG is reading. I wouldn't be able to finish it. Yeah, it bothers me that much. The information is available -- nowadays, even primary sources are more available than they once were, thanks to the Web and universities digitizing their collections. There is no excuse for crud.
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Old 11-10-2010, 02:25 PM   #22
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Oh I do hope I can give a view into a different world for my readers that gives them a little education and a lot of escapism
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:27 PM   #23
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Incidentally, I would have put down that story that EileenG is reading. I wouldn't be able to finish it. Yeah, it bothers me that much. The information is available -- nowadays, even primary sources are more available than they once were, thanks to the Web and universities digitizing their collections. There is no excuse for crud.
Believe me, if I didn't know the author and been personally asked to read it, I would have tossed it within three pages. Not only full of 21st century attitudes, it's also full of infodumps designed to show how much research the author has done.

The thing is, I'm not a historian, but if I, as a reasonably educated person, can spot all those mistakes, anyone with specialised knowledge would be driven mad.

I'm going to suggest to the author that he gets a t-shirt saying "Peadophile and Proud" and wear it in public. That should give him a taste of the reaction his heroine would have got.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:02 PM   #24
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Peadophile? Someone who loves peas?

(couldn't resist)
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Old 11-11-2010, 02:27 AM   #25
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My novel is set in Georgian London and I hope I have the atmosphere about right within which my imagination can roam free
Hi there, I write Regency London (end of the Georgian period).

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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!
Gah. I hate hearing that. The Georgian time was one of debauchery and decadence; the Victorian moralists were a reaction against it. But many ignorant readers project Victorian mores backwards and think the Georgians were even more moralistic. It's a frustration I share.

There were some extreme brothels; period writings describe them in detail. Pornographic sketches and cartoons were sold publicly, and advertised openly. You could walk down Bond Street and see porn in the windows of printing shops. Many aristocratic men of the time collected snuff boxes with pornographic scenes on them. A friend of mine has one that depicts three men and two women in flagrante delicto.

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It was also a melting pot of immigrants some of whom were plotting against their hosts - as today!
And it was a time of great xenophobia among the British, too. They relied on the talents of the immigrants, but there was a lot of distrust.


I try to make my fiction a window into a different time. The characters have many of the attitudes of the time. Society wasn't cut from one cloth, even then. There were aristocrats who were decadent and aristocrats who were upright and cared about their tenant farmers. The trick is to do enough worldbuilding that the reader understands how the characters are a product of that environment, or to show what they're rebelling against.

Nothing drives me crazier than a modern character in an historical setting. If that's what someone wants to write, just do a time travel story IMO.

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Old 11-11-2010, 04:54 AM   #26
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...Not only full of 21st century attitudes, ....
That's the trickiest part.
Most of "21st century attitudes" could be found in ancieent Greece.
It's very difficult to tell them apart.
We're not as modern as we like to think....

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Old 11-11-2010, 08:47 AM   #27
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That's the trickiest part.
Most of "21st century attitudes" could be found in ancieent Greece.
It's very difficult to tell them apart.
We're not as modern as we like to think....
Well, here's one way to check: Are women restricted to gynacea, or do they take an active part in public politics?

How about slavery: Is it legal and acceptable, considered a normal part of the structure of society, or is it illegal and appalling?

Starting with those two might get you something of a start on telling your ancient Greece from your modern US/Europe/etc. We can get deeper and more nuanced, going into things like the notion of public service, the role of a state religion, the institutions of government, the declaration and purpose of war, and so on, but those two should do for a start.
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Old 11-13-2010, 06:55 AM   #28
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My central character is developing as bit of an enigma but within a believable historical context. He is an atheist intrigued by the new sciences of the age but believes in and would die for his King. He respects the social niceties of upper class London yet will happily indulge in brothels, insane gambling.

Dexter also has a sense of history and its tragic repetitive nature. All these traits were alive and well in the early 19th century amongst the educated elite especially.

Once that is established in the environment of the day then I think one's imagination can let go and create a believable plot
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Old 11-13-2010, 01:25 PM   #29
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The biggest burden is that people will probably only notice when something is wrong. The setting and atmosphere, if you're doing fiction without the info-dump, only provide the backdrop, and immersion will die a painful death if somebody uses the word, "Shizzle." Unless it is somehow appropriate for the historical period.

Creative control of the story itself is usually just fine, as long as it doesn't horridly contradict the elements of the backdrop. If you're doing alternate history, then by all means go nuts with the changes.

Think of how awkward a realistic WW:II novel would be if der Fuhrer rode out on the battlefield on a gigantic robot spider. It's the little (or big) things that can kill the experience for a reader, but crap like, "Oh, the sex scenes seemed less puritanical than my uninformed impressions," is silly.
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:10 AM   #30
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We also need to remember that History is written from several view points and fiction can be used to open readers minds a little. Sometimes only through fiction do general readers get to see a more realistic or gritty view of worlds gone by
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