1. ConstantlyResearching

    ConstantlyResearching New Member

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    Should Historical Accuaracy Trump Common Knowledge in Historical Fiction?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by ConstantlyResearching, Dec 18, 2017.

    Hello,

    I'm working on a short story about the Great Plague that took place in London in 1665. I've been doing some research on what the weather was like during that summer and despite the assumption that it would have been incredibly hot and humid, I've been reading that in fact, it was a relatively mild summer that year with little humidity.

    I want to submit this story for possible publication once I've done editing it but I'm wondering if publishers would even look at a piece that doesn't go with what is common knowledge?

    Does anyone have an opinion on this? It would be greatly valued.

    Thanks for your time
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    If it's wrong it's a common misconception... not common knowledge. Either way I doubt a publisher will quibble much with a 350 year old meteorological fallacy.
     
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  3. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I agree with @Homer Potvin. Just tell the truth if the data is reliable.
     
  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm for historical accuracy but what fits the story trumps all.
     
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  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think the real problem is how hard it is going to be to convince a contemporary literary publication to care for a story set in 1665. I read a lot of short story publications, and it's rare that historical fiction makes it into their pages. I did sell a historical fiction short story, but it was a war story and didn't go back that far. Still, it was a hard one to place. I imagine you will face similar challenges regardless of how wonderful your story is.
     
  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I'll read anything set during the plague - a fascinating period of history.

    I don't think anyone is going to care if you describe the weather as "hot" and the official records describe it as "not that hot."

    How accurate are these records, anyway? Neither Celsius nor Farenheit had been invented in 1665, so how could anybody quibble over what the temperature was? My ideal temperature is about 14C, which I would describe as mild. My ex was from a much hotter country, and 25C was mild for him.

    I really don't see how this could be a problem.
     
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  7. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know... I'm a pretty casual historical fiction reader. - I just sit back and enjoy the story, and don't mind when the author takes certain liberties, don't notice or don't worry about inaccuracies. However, from reading many reviews and such, I know that there are many historical fiction readers who get pedantic over the most trivial things. Those who are just waiting, cudgel at the ready, to hang you out to dry for the slightest misstep - that is what put me off writing historical fiction in the first place, so I salute your effort @ConstantlyResearching . If you're confident in your research and the integrity of your sources, then I'd say follow that.
     
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    I hear you on that, but I say screw those readers. Go troll the internet and let the rest of us enjoy fiction for its escapism. Obviously, historical fiction is a bit different in this regard than the other genres, but in my opinion, if you're going to quibble about the weather, you need a life.
     
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  9. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I'd say you're fine. The audience who is going to read historical fiction is much less likely to put stock in popular misconceptions than the general public at large. Besides, something like the weather during the Great Plague is very obscure, so popular misconceptions are unlikely to form about it.
     
  10. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I have no life...First thing before writing a new scene/chapter with a date change, I check the Farmer's Almanac archives for the weather in my MC's zip code in NYC for that date. :)

    Will the average reader know? Nope. But I know.

    So, for the OP, if it bothers you, go for accuracy. My usual genre is non-fiction, so getting an easily researchable detail wrong would drive me crazy.

    My WIP takes place in 1980, though, and my likely audience grew up in the '80's, so it's a bit different. You're unlikely to encounter someone who comes up to you and says, "Hey! I grew up there during the Plague, and..."

    Do you, OP.
     
  11. ConstantlyResearching

    ConstantlyResearching New Member

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    Thank you all for your input. I don't have a lot of hope for this story as far as publication goes but I do want to try. I did some looking around and found a couple of online publications that cater to historical fiction. Some of them might pay a few dollars and some don't pay at all but for me, I'd just like to build a portfolio for if and when I decide to publish my novel (The main blockade is that I have to finish writing the bloody thing first!).

    Thanks again!
     
  12. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.
     
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  13. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    If you enjoy writing short stories and feel like you get something out of it, then that's a good enough reason to write them.

    But because it's a popular misconception :))), I'll point out that having published short stories is not going to help you get representation for a manuscript, or sell a novel-length manuscript, when the time comes. Agents and publishers just don't care about it - all that matters is the manuscript (and platform, if it's an exceptional one). If your main goal for writing and subbing shorts is to help sell a novel, your time would be better spent on the novel itself.
     
  14. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Something to consider, although it wouldn't apply to the OP's era, or to mine, is that vintage reinactment websites and vintage forums and Facebook groups are great places to promote historical fiction novels. Many of them have forum threads devoted to books. But, because they're reinactors, they're sticklers for authentic detail.

    If I were writing about my favorite eras, the 1930's or 1940's, I would absolutely want people on The Fedora Lounge to approve of how I handled the details, because those are the people who would most want to read it. Groups like that have vintage meetups and vintage reinactment conventions, and they attend historical fiction book signings in vintage clothing. They get genuinely excited by authors who get the details right and will go out of their way to spread the word in the vintage community.

    So, it's worth thinking about.

    The TV show Downton Abbey was a great example of authentic detail plus great storytelling. A Hundred Summers is a book that did a great job of capturing my favorite era, the 1930's (the 1933 hurricane is a backdrop that turns into a plot point).
     
  15. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    @ConstantlyResearching, I took some liberties with historical accuracy in The Eagle and the Dragon, but I will buy a beer for anyone who can find them. As for the weather, if my memory serves me correct, the 1600s were exceptionally cold in Europe. The Thames froze over annually, so hard they had festivals on the ice. This was a period of protracted minimal sunspot activity for about a century. That being said, even during cold periods, there can be warm days, especially in the summer. If you are dealing with just a few days, don't worry about it. However, if your story spans a year or so, research the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age and make sure you don't get too far afield there; that appears to have had a greater impact on the winter weather, rather than summers, so you may be OK. But good to see you doing the research!

    As for publication you might look at the Historical Novel Society, either as a venue or a source to find venues for publication, and the Historical Writers of America.
     
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  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Haha... that's fine for a writer for to do, but a reader who pulls out an almanac to fact check the weather in a book they're reading needs to be slapped repeatedly.
     
  17. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Though I'm sure it will wrinkle some shirts, I completely agree.

    Though in no way historical in nature, Marion Zimmer Bradley is known to have refused to create a map of her extremely popular Darkover world for similar reasons. She knew full well there were inaccuracies and contradictions in time and place across her long-lived series and rather than try to settle the unsettleable, she pretty much said that those who were badgering her for a map needed to discover Tinder (or Grindr). :bigwink:

    (Not her exact words, obviously.) :whistle:
     
  18. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

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    If you get it wrong, someone will know and that someone will probably tell you you're wrong.

    If you get it right, someone who believes the misconception will probably tell you you're wrong.

    At least with the former, you know you're not the one who is...:D
     
  19. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    As long as you're not trying to pass off your historical fiction as an accurate account of events, then I don't think it really matters. It might be a good idea to know the facts yourself, though, just in case someone questions you on it you can defend your decision to stretch things for the sake of drama.
     
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  20. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    From my ancient Central Asian advisor

    You are right to guess that the surviving Bactrian literature is not likely to attest the phrases you are looking for. Adapting Tajik phrases is a possibility, but risky because these very likely contain words borrowed from Arabic. Using rather parallel phrases from Sogdian, a more closely related language, I would suggest:


    "Shut up" = pidrukh (addressed to one person), pidrukhid (addressed to several);


    "You are late" = gher ersey (addressed to one person), gher ersid (addressed to several);
    “Put your back into it” = gamban kir (addressed to one person), gamban kirid (addressed to several).


    At any rate, if you use these phrases, no-one will be able to prove you wrong!

    I look forward to reading the sequel in due course. Meanwhile, Happy Christmas to you and Karen


    My protagonists don't speak Bactrian or Sogdian, but by sprinkling these phrases in, combined with the insulting body language, they will figure them out. This is about as much Bactrian or Bactrian surrogate as I need, it's a story, not a language lesson.
     
  21. ConstantlyResearching

    ConstantlyResearching New Member

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    Thank you all so much for your opinions. I think I might stick with the misconception.:bigsmile: It's going to be a short story and if it does get published it will probably be to a limited audience as this is my very first attempt at trying to write something for publication and I am choosing to start rather small and will to send it to publications that are unable pay, just for the experience. I may post it in the forum just to see what you all have to say and it's worth publishing in the first place.

    Cheers:evilsmile:
     
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  22. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I would be rigorous on this one. Get the weather right for 1665, plenty of heat in later year(s), nnneh.

    More interesting to write 'it was not warm' rather than the cliche of 'sweltering heat, sweat dripped and bobos laced/spread/popped across every inch of exposed face.'
     
  23. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    And when Bjo Trimble wrote her Star Trek concordance, she found a number of irreconcilable things, most notably in the "Star Date" sequences. She shrugged them off, mostly.

    For me, the issue is how well you want to present your story to people who already know a considerable amount about that era. If your anachronisms are egregious, you're going to lose a lot of readers unless you telegraph to them that you're taking liberties, and why. If you're not particularly concerned about that, then go and tell your story.

    Tom Berger's Little Big Man was extensively researched, and forty years later, when I re-read it, I could only find a couple of inconsistencies. One concerned a revolver that Jack Crabb acquired, which actually wasn't issued until a few years later. (But in his defense, Crabb himself stated that he was over a hundred years old and couldn't remember everything.) And there were a few details of the Little Big Horn battle that Berger got wrong, but they only came to light after some recent archeological work at the site.
     
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