1. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Historical fiction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Gallowglass, Jul 20, 2009.

    What do you like and dislike about it? I'm writing historical fiction, and although it has been successful in the past usually it's been at the cost of historical accuracy (Braveheart is a fantasy film).

    I want to find out what people hate so I can avoid it, without having to change historical accuracy as a way of making the book more relevant to a wider audience.
     
  2. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    I have mixed feelings about historical fiction. Done well, it can be fascinating. It's normally relatively easy to tell when something has been well-researched and is historically accurate, and in those cases the books not only make for an entertaining read, but are often somewhat (or rather) educational, which is always a plus.

    I don't really like it when the author sacrifices one element (the story or the historical accuracy) for the other. On one hand, you get a very dry piece of work that reads like a history textbook, often to the point where it's painful to read. On the other, you get a book so full of implausible events or just incorrect timelines that it makes you chuckle at best and cringe at worst (Julius
    Ceaser takes on Napolean!)

    In my mind though, the story should come first. If you're interested in writing something from history, then by all means write it. But I never think you should write something simply because it's historical fiction. You should write it because you have a story you want to tell that fits that time period/historical event(s). When I write, I don't worry about what label it's going to get. I just write the story in my head, and make sure as many details as possible are cohesive/historically correct/plausible, depending on the situation.

    For example - I've always wanted to write a piece set in Civil War America. A historical fantasy piece maybe. Maybe just plain historical fiction. The same goes for Feudal Age Japan. But I just don't have the story in my head yet, so I can't in good conscience try and force one to fit the time period. It'd turn out horribly.

    Of course, you probably didn't need that mini diatribe at the end there. Sorry, I'll get off my high horse now ;P

    Cheers,
    ~Christian
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    We like the same things that we like in any book, I would think. Accuracy matters, but very few people care so much about it that they would rather be accurate that compromise quality. Take the movie A Knight's Tale. It's not purely accurate in a literal sense. It is accurate to the spirit of the time, though.
     
  4. JGraham
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    JGraham Senior Member

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    I love historical fiction, i love when books weave actual facts with fiction. I love how it can mesh, and, for the most part, it sounds believable. Although i would advise against doing something with the Knights Templar and that sort of thing, it just seems that there are too many books out there using this at this point.
     
  5. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    Keep it accurate

    In grade school, I read a book that I believe was title "Flat Top" and was centered on the old World War II carrier Enterprise. It was about two brothers, both pilots, who are about to battle the Japanese at Midway.

    From what I can remember, it was failrly accurate with the battle and later in the Solomon Islands with the Coast Watchers. In hinesight, there were some implausable events, but other then that, it was good reading and helped spark my interest in the Pacific war where my dad served.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with historical fiction as long as you don't rewrite it. Just try to be accurate with it.

    Of course if you are trying to re-write history that's a whole different thing.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's a slew of good, valid observations and advice from mr. 'doubledeath'... take it seriously!
     
  7. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I think historical fiction, if written wrong, easily crosses the line between accuracy and dry writing.

    The payoff is that history has some of the best stories that need telling.
     
  8. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    You're writing Historical Fiction? Wow, you're brave! :D
    I like it a lot, but to make it historically accurate... Well, it's not as easy as many think. Many people write about historical figures whose lives, accomplishments and a lot about them is known. You cannot accomodate comfortably your stories there, can you?
    I prefer, when it comes to Historical Fiction, to write about events or time periods where everything's really obscure... Or where the line dividing legend from facts is really, really blurry. It gives you more space to be creative.
    Anyway, good luck with your story!
     
  9. AliasXNeo
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    AliasXNeo New Member

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    The only thing I dislike about historical fiction is when authors add their own propaganda into the novel. A lot of times authors will follow history fairly close, with the exception of a few changes to basically get their own crooked view of history across to the reader. There's a difference between an author adding the changes for the betterment of the story and an author who is doing so to preach his ideologies to the reader.
     
  10. ravenflutterby
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    ravenflutterby New Member

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    I'm a huge fan of Philippa Gregory, I love her work. Firstly I have an interest in the era of history she writes but also that she's done extensive research on the subject. I find that history is so diverse with so many events that not an awful lot has to made up and in fact it works better if the story is worked around actual events.
     
  11. Erebus
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    Erebus Member

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    I've been reading some Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden books who deal with Roman and Mongol history and done well they are fantastic. I think you have to insert enough about the history to create an atmosphere without bogging the reader down in too much unnecessary information that they cannot relate to.
     

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