1. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    How important are correct days/dates in history?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JosephMarch, May 3, 2014.

    My story takes place in 1978. At one point, my MC is home on Spring Break right after her birthday in March. I just checked a calendar, and Easter was late in April. I can't change her birthday. Does it matter if this is historically correct? Is it even something anyone would notice or check?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm sure most readers wouldn't even know. And if they do check, I don't think many would care. I certainly wouldn't.
     
  3. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Maybe should have made this a poll.

    I hate real-based fiction, and I would take it on faith that you were just mentioning dates for some reason that you'd reinforce if it were important.
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Let's just say that I wouldn't look it up to find out.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it matters. But I'm confused about the relevance of Easter. Do a lot of schools tie spring break to Easter?
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin oflittle minds" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Sure you'd like all your fact to line up perfectly with no contradictions. But if you can't, if you run into some minor detail that just can't be reconciled and isn't critical to the story, let it go. Chalk it up to experience, and the next time your research will take such things into account in advance.

    Don't let it drive you nuts.

    And if someone call you out on it, quote Emerson to yourself, and tell them it's an Easter egg.
     
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  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Same here. Having gone to college in the mid-7os, I don't recall Spring Break coinciding with Easter. Want me to look it up in my journals? lol
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @Cogito. I think you'll get away with this, even if people do notice. This juxtaposition of Easter Break/ Spring Break CAN certainly happen. (In fact, I think it just did, in many places ...certainly here in the UK.) It's probably no big deal, if your story doesn't hinge upon national events that took place that year, etc.

    However, I'd also agree with him, that this is the sort of thing you might want to check out in future. This is not the kind of 'mistake' that's going to make you look bad. However, if you decide to write a story about a character living during the American Civil War, and tell us the war ended in 1868 because you don't want to change somebody's birthday, you might lose some credibility as a writer!
     
  9. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    Yes, Spring break coincides with Easter In my experience...just to be clear we are talking parochial high school.
     
  10. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @JosephMarch ...so, why does her birthday HAVE to be in March? And why does it have to be 1978 in the first place? :)
     
  11. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    all part of my devious plan, Burlbird...stay tuned!!!
     
  12. Morristreet
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    Morristreet Member

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    In my view, dates for past events are important because they establish continuity and the correct procession of facts. Specific accuracy, on the other hand, in not as important, because you're not writing a specific historical work. One of my works is set both current and in the past, but due to facts already based in reality, I have had to modify and in some cases fabricate events to build the story base and have had to change historical event dating in such a way as to make them rationalize within my work. Thus, my work is now on a parallel world, not Earth Prime.

    Unless your work is very much specifically historical in nature, the actual dating is not as important as the story flow. Your 1978 does not have to fully correspond with our historical 1978. It is your work, and you can make changes to your universe as you need to to make story flow proper. As I like to say, when you make a story, you start by making the dirt. You start from the ground and establish events, then wrap the tale round those events and let the characters run with the framework.
     
  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh. Well, that might make a difference. We didn't really have anything called Spring Break in public high school, just Good Friday and Easter Monday off.

    Maybe a better question is, does the event/action/whatever that's connected with your character's 1978 spring break have to happen right after her birthday? Would a few weeks' gap mess anything up?

    In the novel I'm rewriting I originally had college Christmas break going till the end of January. I have no idea why; looking back on it we were always back on campus by the 15th or so. I'm having to rewrite a minor character and the time he interacts with my main characters because no one will ever believe that the students were off for that long.

    But if you can fudge the date of Easter in 1978 without the ordinary reader going, "What???", go for it.
     
  14. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    As long as you're not talking about things that actually happened, I don't see why it would be a problem. Get the date of a specific battle in the Vietnam Conflict and you'll get a few angry tweets. Spring break in Easter? People are more concerned with their Twitter accounts being hacked now.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think you can get away with a certain amount of fudging. As long as 'spring break' way back in the 70s COULD have happened as you wrote it, then go ahead. I mean, we often read historical fiction in which characters go out in the rain, or bask in sunshine or feel the wind in their teeth ...but do we, as readers, go back scanning weather reports from 100 years ago to discover what the weather actually was like in that particular place on that day? (If we do, we probably need to get a life.)

    Well, it would be smart if the fictional rain (or storm) didn't occur in the middle of a famous drought—but writers usually get away with this kind of detail-fudging.

    What a writer won't get away with fudging is any important fact that people might be tempted to look up. Or something that most people will know, or people who live in a particular place or lived in a particular time period will remember.

    I wouldn't try putting the wrong guy on the moon in place of Neil Armstrong, or fudging the date of that launch—but exactly what the outdoor temperature was in the middle of Kalamazoo, Michigan at noon on that fateful day can probably be fudged. Hey. It was summer, so just guess!
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you're talking about a parochial high school in the US in the late '70s, yes, it would be tied in with Easter. Because Easter changes from year to year, it isn't likely that the average reader will pick up on it, even one who is religiously observant. It's the kind of thing that one would have to go back and check. OTOH, I agree with @Burlbird - does it make that much difference if you move the character's DOB forward a few weeks?
     
  17. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see a story there - if it is so important for someone that an event happened in April '78, but historically it couldn't have happened in April '78 :) Personal memories, especially childhood memories, can often be deceiving and lack chronological accuracy. Shared and collective memories can be as deceiving as well - in old histories, for example, it's not unusual to find celestial phenomena such as comets or eclipses remembered as omens even if they actually happened after a social event connected with them. (I don't think, personally, that this is in any way an "error" and/or actual "deception" - but I understand that more empirically oriented people may see them that way).

    Personal example: for years it was important to me to place two distinct childhood memories, each belonging to a different childhood "narrative" (1.relationship with grandparents, 2.early sexual experience), in the same summer of '86, just a few weeks apart. Recently, I discovered that not only they happened 2 years apart, but neither of them actually happened in 1986 - the summer when a third event, equally important, but marginalized, took place...

    Sorry for going on with my own obsessions :) but I was just wondering : if the supposed historical "discrepancy" you discovered could be used to actually enrich your narrative? Not necessarily in the way I proposed, of course. And not as if I know what your plans really are :) but I think there is some potential for improvement in any mistake we make - and the fact you are asking, and thus have doubts about your narrative because of your discovery makes me wonder if historical accuracy you are so fixed on is really what you want to be fixed on :)
     

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