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  1. Aria.Atkins

    Aria.Atkins New Member

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    Changing a historical myth

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Aria.Atkins, Jan 11, 2017.

    Hi guys, this is my very first post on the forum and I'd like to shortly introduce myself before exposing my plot development issue.

    Firstly, I don't have solid background as a writer. Even though, I am currently writing a book about the Law of Attraction, I still consider myself a newbie :).

    I am so full of ideas that it feels as if my head would explode at times. My main problem is that I'm impatient in life (I am working on this!) and I can barely keep my focus on something for too long. Maybe this is why I passionately leaped into researching data about my new book, which actually I intend to turn into book series (quite ambitious, right? :D ) before I have even finished the first one.

    Ok, now that we have cleared that I have mental disorder let's proceed to my plot development chaos.

    My first book is more like a pep talk which helps me speak my mind,be support for the people that are to read my book and reveal techniques I figured through my own experience. The novel that I wish to distend in trilogy (at least), however, requires solid knowledge in writing techniques, rich vocabulary and perfect grammar.

    I have never attended creative writing courses or have been an A-student in literature classes, and most of ALL - I'm not a native English speaker. Despite all that I don't feel like quitting on my goal and desire. I believe the best writers are the ones able to speak their mind and soul on a blank paper, being compelling in a way no course or seminar was able to teach them.

    Now, here is my plot issue...

    My story is meant to change an ancient Roman myth that has never been proven to be real event. My idea is to explore the bloodline of a Roman dynasty, change the order of the members and fit in the story of fictional characters and empire. It will be twisty, bloody and definitely sexy. My concern here, however, is if I would provoke the wrath of historians and Roman history admirers. Would my story be a breath of fresh air, breaking the chains of the well-known and tortured to death mythology or it will simply inspire judgement and critique for being so bold to interfere history?

    If anyone here has ever committed or undertaken such act of bravery, please be honest and speak your mind on that idea. Do you believe such concept would find its way to readers' interest? Should I speak to historians or experienced history writers? Should I sign up for a creative writing course? What kind of books shall I search for to enrich my vocabulary?... Or should I simply start writing and stop asking stupid questions?

    Thank you for your time and patience to read the thoughts and passions of a lost mind. I really hope though I will get some feedback as well.

    :)
     
  2. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Member

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    Good for you!! You have identified a deep soul-longing within you, and you are honouring that part of your identity. Keep up the good work and don't quit just because you think you don't have the 'holy grail' (whatever you might deem that to be) to give you the 'right' to write. I have no degrees or training in creative/professional writing, however I've been published in several different spheres and I am currently making good headway with my first novel. There are no rules about writers needing professional training in the industry - most of the best ones don't. Given English isn't your first language, you might benefit greatly from doing some courses in the various elements of written language and communication (grammar/syntax/sentence structure/spelling/punctuation/dialogue, etc). But this is not a requirement, more a personal choice.

    Is the Roman dynasty a real one or a mythological one? I would consider very carefully before I try to change what is accepted as genuine history. If it's myth that you're playing around with, go for it!

    I would suggest to you that you don't try to re-write history... in terms of, be careful about making claims that what has been told and recounted for hundreds (thousands) of years is wrong, and here is the 'true' account ... but rather, consider whether you are able to weave your own story within those fables and myths that already exist. Intertwine the lives of characters who heretofore have never been seen in the same story together. Add things, but think carefully before you take things away. Leave the characters who are already there, but create any kind of web of lies or forbidden secrets or hidden history that you like. And the idea of merging reality with fantasy is totally up to you as the author, there are no rules against it! Just don't try to sell it on the bookshop in the 'history' section! :)

    We will never be able to please everybody. Some of the most successful and lauded works of literature were very controversial, attracting both extremely positive and extremely negative feedback. You may inspire the wrath of some individuals, but you may simply inspire others. You cannot know how your book will be received, so you must simply write what feels true to you, and then let it be what it will be.

    The more experts (historians/writers/researchers/enthusiasts) you speak to, the better your grasp will be of the era you intend to write about, and the more genuine your writing will be as a result. You can only succeed through doing this. I would caution you against sharing all of your plans and ideas with everybody to whom you speak - this will avoid people speaking discouraging or doubtful things to you, which will knock the wind out of your sails. Merely gather as much information and as many ideas/facts/myths/mysteries as you can without sharing more than you need to about your book.

    If you sign up for a course, you will benefit as you learn about the structure and strategy required to write a full length book. However don't get so caught up in the mechanics that you lose your inspiration! Use Google Scholar to research and learn. Ask Google to tell you which books are out there on this topic or that topic, whatever is relevant. Go to the library and ask them what books they have on the Roman Dynasty you are interested in, or even just Ancient Rome, full stop. You will need to get contextual knowledge of that era's culture: the myths and stories that parents were telling their children at bed time. The fashion. The modes of transport. Distances and locations of cities and prominent buildings. Cleanliness regimes and religious customs. Food.

    Best of luck!!
     
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  3. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read 2 novels about MacBeth, king of Scotland 1040-1057. They differed significantly from each other, and from Shakespeare's play.

    King Harthacnut of England (1035-1042) is generally considered to have died of a stroke (as per Wiki). Having researched his death, I'm confident that he actually died of a genetic disease, triggered by alcohol.

    There is evidence that King Harold (1066) Godwinsson's older brother suffered from bipolar disorder. I've never seen it even suggested.

    If there's this much uncertainty about things from 1 millennium ago, as long as you're not changing the whole history of the Roman Empire, you're just being controversial...and (I hope) writing a damned good story.

    Re @N.Phillips suggestion about getting help on your grammar, etc., I'd also suggest you'd need a damned good English-language editor. You use distend (swell or cause to swell by pressure from inside) when I think you mean extend (cause to cover a wider area; make larger.).

    One fault that you do have (common to many EFLs) is the omission of the article...

    "If anyone here has ever committed or undertaken such an act of bravery, please be honest and speak your mind on that idea. Do you believe such a concept would find its way to the readers' interest?"

    ETA: A historical myth is a contradiction in terms.

    A myth is any traditional story consisting of events that are ostensibly historical, though often supernatural, explaining the origins of a cultural practice or natural phenomenon
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just do what everyone else does. Add a short foreword stating that you've intentionally changed things and that historical accuracy (which as you've stated, may not be a factor anyway) has been sacrificed on the altar of storytelling.
     
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  5. Ghost Reflection

    Ghost Reflection Member

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    The odds are yes, you will irritate people, but probably for a variation of reasons that may not have anything to do with the book. Ex: the davinci code. It was a work of fiction I can shrug off easily, however it people's reactions to it that I find irritating, like expecting there to be a historical truth hidden in there.

    My college degree and career is in archaeology, which does overlap with history. Both fields are pretty rigorous about methodology of gathering evidence and then using that evidence to make an argument. Considering all the work and scrutiny that is put into just getting findings published, it's so disheartening when a work of fiction is treated with more credibility. Though, that's not really the authors fault, or is it? Frankly, I'd say go for, and never believe anything you see on the history channel.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
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  6. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, it's not the author's fault.

    Dan Smith was writing a work of fiction. If you believe that it's historical truth, you probably also believe in flying saucers, and that Elvis faked his death.
     
  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Contributor

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    Point of order here (and I hope I am not setting the cat among the pidgeons): I am NOT saying that Dan Brown wrote based on historical facts, but even works of fiction can be researched thoroughly and only 'cast as fiction'. That's the whole point of the genre 'realistic fiction'.
     
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  8. Aria.Atkins

    Aria.Atkins New Member

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    Thank you all so so much for the feedback and the kind support.

    This is the first time I seek "assessment" from professionals and experienced writers. Knowing me, no matter the opinions I would have received, I'd have done it anyway. Yet, it feels good to be reminded that there are already authors who have done what I am aiming for- twist the history.

    I know it is not hard to tell I'm not native, however, it makes me proud to even consider the opportunity to undertake such project despite the con of thinking in another language. Therefore, I feel I must ask for one more thing. Please kindly recommend online courses for English grammar, punctuation and vocabulary that you believe would be most useful to me and my case.
    In regards to the vocabulary I found two very useful and user-friendly websites:

    http://www.enhancemyvocabulary.com/expressive-phrases.html
    https://smartblogger.com/power-words/

    Do you think such sources would be effective and practical enough or simply reading more books in English in relevant topics would be in bigger favor for my goal?

    Cheers.
     
  9. Quanta

    Quanta Member

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    You could check with your public library if you have access to one. As of today, my library is partnering with Gale Courses to offer various online courses for free. I just signed up for Grammar for intermediate and advanced ESL learners. You can do the courses directly from Gale Courses too, thought I don't know how much it costs.
     
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  10. O'ree Williams

    O'ree Williams Member

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    Hi Aria.Atkins, I sympathize with you in your endeavor, as I too am writing a piece that would be in the same vein. All the feedback you have received is excellent, and should be re-examined when and if you need inspiration or re-affirmation about your project. One thing I am learning is that if you plan on writing historical events into your piece, it really helps to be as accurate as possible, lest you get picked apart by history buffs, or arm-chair experts. I have also learned that weaving historical events into a story can be a tricky task, because you run the risk of turning your story into something that reads like a text book, i.e. inserting statistics, etc. Those types of things are not necessary, and detract from the flow of the story.

    Additionally, you must keep in mind that no matter how hard you try to maintain the "story" aspect of your historical piece, there will always be those ready to focus only on the historical accuracies, while completely ignoring the story as a whole. There's not much you can do about them, other than thank them for their time, and forge ahead.

    As to not having any formal training, I too am cut from that cloth. However, I enrolled in a creative writing class, because I came to the conclusion that I really didn't know what I didn't know. I can say from personal experience that if you get the opportunity, take it. It really helps with formulating your thoughts and provides direction.

    Finally, take all criticism with a grain of salt. Learn from them, move forward, and don't let the bastards drag you down!
     
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  11. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Active Member

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    I think it will depend on how you present those changes. I could easily get away with a rewrite of Jesus' life and times while adding a bit about Roman zombies. But a more subtle change, such as suggesting that Jesus and Pilate become romantically involved, and little else in the story is inaccurate, well, that would easily invite the wrath of the masses. So, I agree with Sack-a-Doo! . You could preface it with a suggestion that Cicero himself, for example, contacted you specifically about the story and approved of the changes (which you then describe for the reader).
     
  12. Aria.Atkins

    Aria.Atkins New Member

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    So I can make it easier on you in regards to the great feedback and advice you provide, I'd like to shed some more light on the story. As I initially stated my point is to widen an ancient Roman myth, which according to historians took place between 900 and 800 BC . There isn't much known about this era. Also what historians has "proven" to be a fact for that period might not be 100% true. After all it happened 3000 years ago. Who the hell might be sure of anything that happened back then? (please check the image attached)
    My goal is to develop a story of two fictional characters and their reign and fit it inbetween the reign of two real personalities. Basically, I will not change history, I will simply decorate it. Of course I will make relation between the real rulers and the fictional ones but will avoid changing major historical facts.

    The show Da Vinci Demons is mostly fiction. Can one prove if the Book of Leaves did or did not really exist? It is considered to be fantasy that is only meant to make the TV series intriguing but who knows, right? My idea is the same, rather I won't change the story of a famous figure but create my own ones.

    I'd really like to write something that won't be interesting and fascinating to me only. Yet, the real question is would it be better if I wrote it in my native language and then have it translated by experienced linguists. After all, it takes years for one to study a language and be fully capable of expressing himself (both verbally and in writing) in a language with totally different mechanisms than the ones he is used to think in. Nevertheless, I will enroll in a creative writing class in English. I believe that would be the best way to start.

    Thank all once again for the kind words and feedback.
     

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  13. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    Tip: Find an editor and write in drafts. It doesn't matter if you don't speak in 'le perfect grammar' if you take your time, revise your work, and have someone helping you out with it.

    People write successful pieces that twist mythology all the time. Take Percy Jackson for instance. Or Disney's take on Hercules. If you look there are a lot of different stories that take 'creative liberty' in creating their stories. Many of them take only the gist of things and then later explain 'nah you humans got it all wrong' and then the plot stems from there.

    No one is gonna get on you for making a new work of art. And if someone does, listen to them and try to gauge if it's for a good reason... but as far as 'because it wasn't historically accurate?' If that's not what you were aiming for... then they have no real reason to complain. It wasn't your goal.
     
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