1. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    Your opinion on historical accuracy vs. creativity

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by seelifein69, Oct 28, 2011.

    For about two or three months now I have been planning out a story line. I am basically an ancient Egypt geek and have always wanted to write something. After many bad ideas I finally got a great story with a very historically actuate company of events, with my own behind the scenes additives.

    How do I smudge the things that I can't really know?

    There are just a lot of things that I have to make up. Like how the temples look, how many temple priests and priestesses were at the temples, what rituals they preforms, coronation ceremonies, what royal parties were like, what an upper-middle class like was like.

    I had done some research, actually A LOT of it. And I know a lot about Egypt and different aspects of culture and community and some of every day life.

    So should I leave out things that I'm not sure of to paint a more accurate picture, or should I really have fun with the unknown and give it my own sick twist?

    What to do, what to do. *taps fingers*
     
  2. Melanie
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    Melanie Member

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    I think you should absolutely fill in the blanks yourself. There are a lot of times/places in history that we can't know much about. Imagining what it was like is half the fun!
     
  3. Enerzeal
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    Enerzeal Member

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    Until someone builds a time machine I'm pretty sure there's no chance of someone proving you wrong any time soon. People watch and love Star Trek Enterprise yet from a scientific stand point a lot of it is rubbish now. Even FTL travel is technically impossible (discounting recent CERN discoveries). What makes people watch those factually incorrect shows is that the world is portrayed in such a believable way, that suspension of belief is easy.

    Make your book read like it could be real and I'm pretty sure people will forgive it should someone with ancient temple blueprints come along and prove you wrong.
     
  4. JGHunter
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    JGHunter Member

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    I'd be interested in reading a piece of fiction based in ancient Egypt, despite the fact you've told us you'd have made parts up. Then again I don't know much about ancient Egypt so you could more or less make up the whole thing and I'd be none the wiser XD sometimes being a fickler for historical accuracy makes critics just boring people. If you can weave in your imagination and averager readers don't pick up on it, then you've done well.
     
  5. Jabby J
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    Jabby J Member

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    I think depending on the story, making things up parallel to the facts is fine. Just as long as it's known somewhere down the line it's fiction. I'd be bummed if I found out tomorrow that King Tut was a hoax.
     
  6. JGHunter
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    JGHunter Member

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    I agree I would be bummed too... However I'd be impressed by the ability of the author to make him so believable.
     
  7. Bazmann
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    Bazmann New Member

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    If it is presented as a clearly fictional novel and not a historical text i'm sure there won't be a problem. If you are not able to find factual information to fill in the blanks, not many of your readers are going to be able to find contradicting information either. As look as the story is entertainign and engrossing, no-one is going to look to closely into the specifics.
     
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  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    imo, what you really need to do is your homework... do the requisite research that all historical novelists have to do in order to have their work be believable and not mess up historical facts...

    no, you don't 'have to make up' any of that stuff... it's all been copiously well-documented and the info is readily available for anyone who really wants to know...

    much, if not all of that can probably be found in the many successful novels that have been written about ancient egypt... for instance, in the works of wilbur smith...
     
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  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really it's up to you. Some authors dot every historical 'i' and cross every historical 't', and some readers love that accuracy. Some ride completely roughshod over historical accuracy, and while I'm sure they get lots of letters along the lines of "I think you will find that from 1751 to 1784 in the North Kilttown area, the presbyter stood in front of the rood screen in those churches that retained them" it doesn't seem to mar their success. Just make your own decision on what it is you want to write.
     
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  10. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    So funny, I laughed when I read that. I agree, I'm not trying to be that precise, I don't want to write a text book lmao.

    When I think about it, I picture it as a big production HBO series, not a documentary. I just want to be true to the facts while playing around the unknown.
     
  11. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    I've been doing research since I was a little girl, and I have the internet, documentaries and a personal text book to rely on.

    But my story line is over 1000 years before Tut, and over 2000 years before Cleopatra. Off the top of my head around 2500 BC, so there weren't that many technologies to work with. Also there isn't as much documented information about much. All they know about my Pharaoh was the lineage and his ruined tomb in the desert.

    So the things that people think about Egypt are usually in the Middle and New Kingdoms, but I'm doing this Old Kingdom Style. lol

    I would rather play with the idea of an private royal party than just leave it out of my story.

    Also there's not a lot know about an ancient cult that is important to the characters of my story, so most of that is going to have to be critically dictated between what can be factually drawn from my materials and my own personal twist.

    Homosexuality, murder, herb lore, and just a list of other things that we don't really have much documented evidence about (that is in my time era).
     
  12. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    Thank you all for the advice! It's nice to just have some extra opinion.

    Can't wait to share some excerpts with you all when I finish my planning process. Wish me luck!
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can only agree with mamamaia here and say that I don't understand why you don't take the time to do a bit more research--it's not all that hard to find out more, and it's part of the fun for most people who write historical novels. Otherwise, you're not writing a historical novel, it's more along the lines of alternative history/fantasy (which can be fine also).

    I'm not saying you have to spend years researching and be accurate in every single detail for a historical novel necessarily, just make a bit of an effort. I still remember a book I read 40 years ago as a child, set in Ancient Egypt, about a goldsmith's apprentice who gets information on a grave robbing gang. There was a lot of well-researched information about food, clothes, makeup and methods used by goldsmiths which really enhanced the plot, and it was recommended reading on school lists as well.

    Edit: Just remembered the name. The Golden Goblet. Apparently these days the vocabulary is considered too difficult for the book to be used in schools.
     
  14. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    I know food clothes and makeup, I know building techniques and basic city structure. I know harems and behaviors of women, I know law, I know basic government, hunting strategies, weapons, lots of religion, Nubians, perfume, paper, glass, boats, nile, crops, animals, and just a whole lot more.

    It's the things in peoples lives that they don't have in books I guess is what I'm trying to ask about.

    The outlooks on gays. The orgies after the feast. Coronation ceremonies, there is no information about weddings or if they even had weddings.

    The only thing is they mention a lot of things that I want to know, but they talk about them in a pretext of about 1000 years after my characters have all died. So I think I should use that information that I can take from later culture to apply that to the past. Remember, glass may have not even been invented yet, so all of these clothes and furniture and certain things are too modern for my story. There is just not the information on the Old Kingdom that there is for the Middle and New. So trying to take some more modern theories and think on how they would have been 1000 years before that.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    If ancient Egyptians are anything like the modern variety they would have no stance on gays, but consider gay leanings fairly normal, even permissable R & R. Have you ever seen a male Egyptian belly dancer or theatre 'girl'? They are just part of the night scene. However, no man in his right mind wants to die with no family or heirs, so it's not an option as a full 'lifestyle choice'.
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You just answered your own question. You pretty much have the culture of Ancient Egypt down. The rest just requires a bit of thinking like an Egyptian of the time.

    Opinon of homosexuality? Well...I don't know. I imagine they wouldn't have cared, but at the same time, it wouldn't be out in the open.

    Orgies? I would imagine the wealthy would do this...

    Coronation? I would imagine this would be a tradition the Egyptians would keep as unchanged as possible. The ritual of coronation in the Middle and New Kingdoms would likely have been just the same as it was way back in the Old Kingdom. Sure some things would be changed, ie, the crown when Upper and Lower Egypt finally united as one nation.

    Weddings? Hell yeah! No Egyptian male, especially the pharoah would be caught dead without a wife and a child or two to be the heirs of their land. (heir in question being the sons.)
     
  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    <delete, double post. Don't know why it happened>
     
  18. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    Thanks guys :]
     
  19. sculyblast
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    sculyblast New Member

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    if you ask me, it truly depends on the type of story you are trying to write and the audience you have in mind.

    if you want to write an royal intrigue or a political episode in egyptian history, simply trying to excite your audience over another scenario of powerplay set in an exotic time and place, than you are justified in falsifying everything you want. hell, give the pharaoh an Iphone for all I care, it will probably make him more recognisable to the audience.

    if you are, on the other hand, trying to show your audience why you love egyptian history so much and want to show them the mystique of egypte, I would advice for going for as much historical accuracy as you can. because you are trying to take people's minds to places that they are unfamiliar with, it would be bad to make up elements from scratch, thus giving them what they are already familiar with.
    I have to concede that even if the latter is your goal, it doesn't make sense to lock yourself up in the library for the next five years to find out if a egyptian temple has 23 or 24 templeservants. some details are just not relevant enough for the story to be portrait perfectly accurate, but make sure that you get the elements that are necessary to actualise your intention for the story are accurate.

    sculy
     
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  20. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    When it come to historical novels -time and events have to be correct. It is up to the novelist to research these things and then weave a fictional story in and through them.

    If you what to be and author of historical fiction, then learn to enjoy your research.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in answer to that, trilby has saved me some typing:
    if you make up that stuff, instead of doing the requisite research to be historically accurate, then you can't call it a 'historical novel'... as someone mentioned above, it would then fall into the 'alternative history' category, if not simply considered a 'poorly researched' historical novel and thus reflect equally poorly on your reputation as a writer... the info is out there... it's up to you to find it, if you want to be a successful author...
     
  22. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can be creative and make things up yourself, but your novel will not be a hisorical novel. Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters is the only one of her books not considered a historical book because she used a little artistic licence. The book was full of conscious inaccuracies, which made for an amazing book, but not a true account of the era. So it's up to you, really. Are you aiming to write a historically accurate novel, or a non-historical novel based on that era?
     
  23. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    Thanks, I think this is a great answer. Some elements are just so minute that it's not worth busting my so called 'balls' to find them.

    It's revolving around the building of the Sphinx and a new theory Egyptologists have come up with. So I do want it to be as accurate as possible, having all the family down by semi accurate ages and stuff like that. But as far as how the two royal brothers hated each other, is going to be my ideas as of why.

    **I want it to be a historical novel, but in the way the Tudors and Spartacus is a historical series; accurate but with a lot of behind the scenes details that are created. so maybe that is alternative history, or fiction history, I wasn't aware of those genres.
     
  24. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    Oh and because a lot of you seem to be very experienced writers, what is your stance at how I should go about the dialogue in an ancient time?
     
  25. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I sincerely can't provide you with an answer, but looking at recent enterprises on how to make historical fiction, like HBO's "Rome", and "Spartacus", I'd say that you should get the accuracy down to a level in which it doesn't start to spoil your work rather than embellishing it. Some poetic licence with historical figures, monuments, myths is definitely allowed, since it's a fiction work. Otherwise you might as well simply write an essay on Egyptian history and drop the "fiction" factor.

    As for dialogue, as a rule of thumb (and at least IMO) noblemen should always speak more formally, right? That's the impression I've always got when reading and watching historically-inspired works.
     
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