1. Psychotrshman
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    Psychotrshman Member

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    Does my "fiction of long ago" have to be "historical fiction"?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Psychotrshman, May 25, 2012.

    Good afternoon everyone,

    I have been working on the first of several novels that I'm writing as a series. The three books take place in the late 1800's around the time of the civil war. Although the storyline takes place in a real time period within American History, all of the characters, places and events are 100% fictitious. There will be a few small nods towards some of the historical happenings that are going on as the hero meets various (fictional) minor characters and the settings will carry the general theme of that time but thats all.

    I have completed most of my prework for the first book, but while I was researching some writing techniques/advice, I came across an article on historical fiction and how the author shouldn't deviate or take liberties with facts. The article said that taking liberties with the facts makes the author appear less intelligent than the readers who may or may not know that the facts have been misrepresented. Intrigued, I dove further into the issue by doing some Google searches on the matter. What I can't find is a definitive answer on what makes a piece historical fiction. To me, my novels will be fiction; nothing about them is factual except for the fact that there was a Revolutionary War and a Civil War. Does / Can / Will the backdrop of my story control if it is historical fiction? If it does / will / or can cause it to be labeled that way, am I still free to take liberties with the facts? :confused:

    Any advice or tips is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sure you can. But if you have Gettysburg burning to the ground, you are writing it as an alternate timeline. If it's minor details that wouldn't touch the history books, no worries.

    Hate to break it to you, but forget a series if you have never published before. Write stand alone novels, and don't mention the word "series" in your query. Mention "other works in development" instead. Your novels MUST stand on their own.
     
  3. Psychotrshman
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    Psychotrshman Member

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    My story doesn't alter any history at all. It only uses it as a backdrop and lets things play out on their own. The liberty I plan on taking would be when the first outsiders hit what is now The United States. It wouldn't change history, it just adds an extra visit before Christopher Columbus.

    By stand on their own, do you mean that book one should be a complete story that someone could enjoy by itself without ever reading the next book? I intend to end each of the three books in a way that you would never HAVE to read the next one to understand what has happened, but in order to fully understand the second and third book, you would need to read its predecessor. Is that an acceptable way to write the later books? Those two would never be in a position to be on the market if the first one didn't make it. I think the first one can stand on its own, but the others can't.
     
  4. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I'm reading a book that is part of a series and I haven't read the earlier books. The author has obviously made an effort to bring people like me up to speed (in as graceful a way as possible), and I appreciate that. I would have been extremely annoyed if I had purchased a book I couldn't enjoy without also reading the previous books. That would have left me feeling cheated. You might say that I should have known I was buying into the middle of a series. Perhaps I should have, but I didn't.
     
  5. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    That may be treading the line of historical fiction. It doesn't change the fact that Christoffer Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, but it changes the widely held assumption that he was the first to do it since the vikings. Still, if that's what your story is about, go for it. There's nothing wrong with novels that explore historical "What if's" or "This is how it could have happened's".

    But will the story in the first book feel complete, or will it leave the reader hanging with loose plot threads and wondering what'll happen to the characters?
     
  6. Psychotrshman
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    Psychotrshman Member

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    Thanks for the comments everyone. I think I can make the first story feel complete with a solid ending that ties everything up neatly, but my real problem that I'm having with the "Feeling Complete" is that the book is about a 16 year old. His "story" isn't really complete until he is dead. The event that happens in the book will be complete and the conflict will be resolved but in the proces there are decisions made that will effect his life from that moment on and those decision can't be played out in a single book unless I made it thousands of pages long; thats what led me to the approach of a series.

    I can start and end each book in a manner that will make it comprehensible as a stand alone book, but the "Complete" feeling won't come until the end of the third book. There will be issues that are resolved but not finished. When the reader is done they are going to have questions that aren't necessarily asked in the story or able to be answered in the story. Kind of like a Happily Ever After ending; what really happens during the rest of their life? In a 16 year olds story, there is alot of life left in there where the reader is going to ask "what if"s or "does he"s of the story. I guess I'm not sure how you end a book with that sense of finality when the character doesn't die.

    I'm a fan of the Clive Cussler books featuring Dirk Pitt and those books don't have that complete ending. Pitt usually rides off into the sunset with a women and at the next books start, that women is never mentioned again. To me, the story of that book (the conflict) is resolved but your still left wondering what happens next in his adventure. Is that whats meant by the book feeling complete? If I tie up all loose ends of that particular conflict, is that the whats meant by the book being complete? Can the book be complete, and the story not?
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    By "complete" I mean that all conflicts in the book are tired up. If a question isn't asked in the first book, it doesn't need to be answered in it, either.

    I think its okay if you leave the reader wondering what happened to the main character, but not in a "Oh my God how is he going to handle this" way, more a "That's a fascinating character, I can barely start to imagine all the adventures he had after this" way. IMHO it's okay to tickle the reader’s imagination, but not to leave them in suspense.
     

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