1. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    Writing Historical Fiction.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by _Lulu_, Jun 1, 2011.

    How important is it to be accurate?

    I have my storyline and plot and I'm planning to set it in the Victorian era. Now, if I have the settings, fashion, dialect, arts, jobs etc correct; how important is the main plot being historically accurate considering it's fiction?

    I don't like to give much of my story away but in brief just to help you advise me. One of my characters will become pregnant out of wedlock and through research I've discovered that baby farming was quite common during that era. However, I want her baby to go into custody of a barren relative of hers.
     
  2. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    If it's fiction, it's not as important to be accurate as it would be for nonfiction, but you should be as accurate as possible. If you look at other works of historical fiction such as Gone with the Wind, they're still pretty accurate despite it being fiction.
     
  3. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    I just don't want to have a case of 'that would never happen during the Victorian era' I have my heart set on this story and that era so I hope it can work.


    I've just found this but it's not from a Historical site :confused:

    'The process of closed adoption began during the Victorian era. Prior to this, birth mothers, who were often single, simply placed their child with a relative or someone who lived in their town. There were no legal rules or processes that the birth mother needed to follow; she simply heeded the advice of her family and her intuition. The introduction of closed adoptions into society spurred the creation of agencies, which assumed all forms of control over the process. Birth mothers no longer had any rights in the adoption process and, due to the societal values at the time, came to be seen as immoral.'​
    Source
     
  4. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Then the situation you've described seems perfectly realistic to me. :)
     
  5. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    Thank god! :redface: I only just found that piece of information now, everything else was baby farming and I don't want to take that route. I'll do some more research tomorrow (today).

    It's almost 5:15am, this story is taking over my life!! lol, I'm heading to bed. Night :) and thanks for your input.
     
  6. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like fun. Sounds like gossip. Sounds like the kind of thing her family and town (to her face) would pretend barely even happened.

    I mean, accurate is necessary, but it's not like you're going to need to get every speck of information right. It's more that it needs to feel right than be right. Good luck.

    I really want to be a smartass and say, "That's because sites didn't exist then." I'm sorry. :C
     
  7. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    It is fun to write, my characters feel so real but it's tiring! and I'm researching all things Victorian. Tiring but interesting and fascinating, I love History.


    LOL!! well, you know what I mean :p
     
  8. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Very. Even if it's fiction, all the details should be as accurate as possible, unless you want to be ridiculed by your own readers...
     
  9. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    Thank you :) I'm researching down to the tiniest detail.
     
  10. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Please, don't do your novel like the old kolossals of the 50s, where the roman legionaries wore wristwatches...:rolleyes::D
     
  11. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    You mean I can't give them an ipod? :eek: :p lol, I won't. I've found some great websites on the Victorian era. The smaller details are easier for me, it's my main plot that I'm having more trouble with but I'm getting there. If need be, I'll change era's but by the looks of things I don't think I need to *phew*
     
  12. Three
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    Three Member

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    EXTREMELY! ... but that's just because I'm obsessive over historical accuracy, to the point of researching a time period for months. I actually quite enjoy getting all the little details right. :)
    You can do whatever you like, of course. It worked for Jane Austin, apparently, so it's really up to you.

    EDIT: Of course, if the story you really want to write can't quite fit in the Victorian era, consider the glorious alternate universe of Steampunk. :D
     
  13. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Like Howl's moving castle?;)
     
  14. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just my two cents, but Historical Fiction - on the whole - is a pretty serious genre with alot of equally serious readers. Authors who don't know their eras inside-out will get caught out pretty quickly, and readers do have a tendency to completely reject them based on inaccuracies. I'm not suggesting every reader of the genre will notice if you've gotten something wrong, but it's important none the less.
    Alternative history is another ball park entirely, where the beauty of fiction writing plays a big part.

    I think that it's important to decide whether you're truly qualified to depict the era you're writing in correctly before you embark on any great writing ventures. If you don't, you could be wasting your time and skills on something which won't even sell, let alone be appreciated by dedicated readers of the genre.
    If you don't take your writing seriously, why should they? Remember, there's a difference between incaccuracies and alternate history. You have to be clear about that before you start writing your novel.

    Oh, and just another thought - remember the phrase "Write what you know". If you aren't an expert on history - or atleast the time you're writing about - don't waste your time. When I first tried to write novels (many failed attempts!) I was too busy trying to copy my favourite authors (one being a writer of historical fiction) to recognise that I hadn't the foggiest clue about the Victorian era. Writers are experts in their genres - a few library books won't really cut it. Sarah Waters had pages and pages of bibliography after her novel The Night Watch, and it's research like that which enabled her to write such believable stuff. That's just one example. IMO, you really have to ask yourself if this is your true calling, or if you're just getting carried away in the romantic idea of the genre.

    I don't know you or your writing, so I can't judge - but it'll benefit you to consider this all the same.
     
  15. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    I'm not an expert on the Victorian era but I love and have a passion for all things Historic. I'm actually starting a degree in History this year. So the research and the time I will put into it will be worthwhile for me; I love the era, I love learning and I have a story that I want to write. It might not be my forté but I'm willing to give it a shot.
    I still have another two in the making which revolve around what I know, which is lifestyle in the Middle East.

    To be honest, when I first came up with this storyline I had no idea which period I would set it in. I decided on Victorian as it seemed quite realistic for that era, until I came across a hurdle last night in my research that made me question the issue. I have confidence I can do it. I'm still in the beginning stages so I'll see how it goes, if I find I can't continue it then I can change things around either through my plot or era. Whatever happens it'll be a learning process so it won't be wasted, especially as it's something I have a major interest in.

    Thanks for your input it's much appreciated and I have taken all the things you said on board and I'll keep them in my mind, thanks again :)
     
  16. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    I enjoy it too, whereas Sci-Fi and Fantasy do not interest me so Steampunk is out of the question :p thanks though :)
     
  17. Caldenfor
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    Caldenfor Member

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    On the alternate history line of thought...

    How alternate should it be? Well, that is up to the writer for sure, but do you want to alienate your story from what everyone knows as history, where it will be a lone trove of it's own information?

    Guess I have a cross-over dilemma. If these events happen in an alternate history, not just a secreted version of fictitious real history, they would never be able to meet specific individuals from our history. It all depends how far apart the histories are, but then one must also consider the "butterfly-effect".

    Best news? Fiction is fiction, do what you want, but make sure it makes sense.

    As for your desire for historical fiction I wish you the best. I know that I would have so many questions that could never be answered about the specified history that I would never be able to get a piece done.

    *Edit* I wouldn't get overly stuck on genres. If you let those interfere with the story you are trying to tell you are limiting your potential. Just write the story and go with it.
     
  18. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    You're right! it's a realistic story plot so it'll fit in somewhere, besides it's still only the first draft. Thanks :)
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Alternate history is not the same as alternate universe. Alternate universe is changing facets of the real world to allow a plot that would be impossible in the real world. Alternate history is taking one historical decision-point or event and changing it, and developing a story based on the changed facts. Phillip Roth did this in "The Plot Against America", in which he theorized that the Republican Party in 1940 nominated charismatic isolationist Charles Lindbergh instead of the interventionist Wendell Willkie, leading to the defeat of FDR in the general election with the result that a less antagonistic policy is taken toward Japan, who thus refrains from attacking at Pearl Harbor in 1941, keeping the US out of World War II. Reading how Roth works this all out helps to demonstrate, I think, the difficulty in working with the device.
     
  20. Devlin Blake
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    The barren relative thing isn't unheard of; it wasn't even uncommon. After all, you have to pay a baby farm both to leave a baby or to get a baby. So if the relative has money, (or is even just upper middle class) it's not beyond the realm of possibility that she offered to take the baby to give it a better life.

    Back then, people who lived in the country didn't file for birth certificates until the days after the child was born. (Even months or years in some cases.)

    So the birth mother can give the baby to the barren relative. Then, the barren relative can just claim she had the baby and get a birth certificate for it from the family doctor. (This wasn't particularly common, but it wasn't uncommon either.)

    Courts rarely got involved in custody back then.
     

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