1. LotusMegami

    LotusMegami New Member

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    History Cultural dissonance

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by LotusMegami, Aug 15, 2015.

    I am currently working on a story set in pre-Viking Era Sweden. A woman is skinning a rabbit when her drunken husband hits her. So she stabs him in the arm, it gets infected, and he dies.

    In the Norse culture, even a woman could avenge an insult. The culture was all about honor and pride. Anyone caught "turning the other cheek" could lose their rights as a citizen. But I'm concerned that my audience won't get that. They might feel sympathy towards her as a battered wife, but will they get why some other characters in the story feel that she was justified?

    Is it even workable to be historical accurate, when the culture in question is so foreign to the modern audience?
     
  2. Ben414

    Ben414 Contributor Contributor

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    Yes. /Thread
     
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  3. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    I would thoroughly introduce the culture before moving on to the story. You could write the scene where the husband is drinking with his friends and they tell stories where the culture is prominent. If you include the reactions of the men in the drinking group, as well as those who's stories are being told, this will further reinforce the cultural norm of the setting.
     
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  4. rainy_summerday

    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Aled's idea is brilliant, because it introduces the culture, but in a playful way. There is nothing more horrible than when a novel starts with a recap that reminds one of a history book. Also, it allows you to introduce some of the characters as well.
     
  5. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributor Contributor

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    In your example, a simple comment from a bystander or a elder/noble could provide the necessary cultural context.
     
  6. HayleyStoryHistorian

    HayleyStoryHistorian New Member

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    History is a fascinating mix bag of things modern audiences would find familiar, and things that have changed in culture and are now considered foreign. I feel in general readers of historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy will come to your novel ready for some concepts that are foreign to them. I have to second Aled James Taylor advise, that if you write scenes or events that show examples of the importance of honor and pride in the society for males and females, before the stabbing then your readers will be along with your protagonist. Also as Mr. Taylor says if you can introduce these examples through dialogue, or thoughts, or actions it'll be much more interesting to the reader than an infodump. Best wishes for you and your story.

    Hayley :-D
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This thread is super old and the OP looks to have departed for other climes, but the question still has relevance in a general sense, so...

    Just don't adopt a professorial tone, attempting to disabuse me of my "wrong-thinking" about these people in a way that breaks into anachronism.

    Example: I goodly while back I gave a critique to someone who was invested in the historical accuracy of things in the story he was writing. One of the things that was bugging this writer was the modern concept that animal furs are worn by ancient people with the fur facing outwards, away from the skin. It was really important for this writer that we know that furs were worn fur-side in, because this greatly improves the fur's ability to hold in warmth. So, there was a whole section explaining this, which included allusion to the modern idea that furs are worn fur-side out. That's total anachronism because there is no one in the scene of the story who would know or care how we think about the wearing of furs in the modern day. The thought could not logically be attributed to any character and was simply the author lecturing us through the narrative.

    Do you like being lectured to? No, me neither.

    When you introduce an idea like the one spoken about in the OP of this thread, it still needs to be organic to the characters. Just present it as matter of fact; don't commit the error of - in some way, shape, or form - relaying this with a glance out to the audience as if to say "as opposed to how things are in your little suburban life".
     
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