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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  8. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I like @HayleyStoryHistorian 's comment, I hope she is still around after a year. I think it is a neat trick to depict the society of the time as it was, but in a way that rteeader can see it and contrast it with modern thoughts... and as @Wreybies said, do it without sounding professorial

    I have an interesting challenge in my current WIP, which is set around the Roman invasion of Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, in 115AD. This initially easy conquest collapsed after just a year when a massive Jewish rebellion broke out in the eastern Med, Alexandria, Cyprus and some Jewish enclaves in Mesopotamia. The Roman historians claimed huge counts of people killed by Jews (Dio Cassius said 200,000), which I discount as unrealistically large by at least a factor of ten, but it was bloody, I suspect, as they brought people back into Cyprus to repopulate it. I am having this uprising orchestrated by Parthia, who could play the contemporary role of Cyrus the Great, offering to restore the Jews to their homeland and rebuild their Temple destroyed 50 years early.

    I am not going to witness these events first hand, because my characters aren't there, they will hear it second hand as rumors or reports, and of course there are Parthian characters who will be manipulating various Jews. And one of my characters is from the the Eagle and the Dragon, in which he was a Jewish rebel turned deckhand. In this book, having earned his citizenship and pardon for past misdeeds for services rendered in the Eagle and the Dragon, he joined the Roman Army. Now ten years on, he has just risen to centurion, is respected by his comrades, though always hazed in a friendly manner for his Jewishness. He is non-practicing, never has practiced his faith since childhood. I see one of the Jews, instigated by the Parthians, offering him a position as commander of the yet-to-be-raised Jewish army, so he is going to have one hell of a conflict, between his new-found status as a respected senior NCO in the Roman Army, and the faith he has never practiced. The person approaching him is someone from Samuel's rebel past in Galilee, someone who was then much more like a highway robber than a freedom fighter, but that person has come by considerable wealth now, and is one that the Parthians are instigating.

    The neat trick is to play this out without making the Jews look like the bad guys, they are after all from their POV attempting to write the great wrong of 70AD. Always keep the good and evil in balance! I think if there is a bad guy in this mix, it is Mithridates, brother to the current Parthian king and soon to succeed him, and by accident a character from E&D (Parthian ambassador to China, not a nice guy then either) who knows and is known by many of the characters in this book ... though not Samuel, though he might have heard the others talk about him.

    Anyway, just musing
     

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