Reconciling Historical Accuracy vs. What your story is about - Page 2

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Thread: Reconciling Historical Accuracy vs. What your story is about

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I would make everything historically accurate. I'd also make sure that my characters fit neatly into history (make them accurate, but not disruptive of the published facts.)

    If you stray from historical accuracy, you will only draw bad reviews from every amateur historian who reads your book. There is no good to be found in departing from historical accuracy.
    Agreed and I think this advice if followed strictly is what can help him receive great reviews from readers. He needs a balance. The published facts when not used properly is what amateur historians or people who don't know about history could land him into problems. Facts need to be respected. The biography needs to be fact based but the period needs its "accuracy and authenticity" (but he can go past the stereotype so long as it does not affect history). Accuracy probably refers to getting the facts correct. Authenticity is probably depicting it by using one's instincts and facts.

    I still think he can write him as an amateur detective because there aren't many facts and I'd like to think that his life was private. Anyone can be an unpaid detective or private eye and not be recognized for it.

    His last accomplishments were most likely recorded by historians. He'd could keep it for example private that he was a detective and did it for helping others and not for profit. He'd hide it from people and if he is blind that makes a convincing case of this secret (some people are nosy for instance in other people's businesses).

    He could be a hero for all we know. The newspaper didn't exist until Benjamin Franklin who started the first business in the united states. I think he can still fictionalize what hasn't been told by a historical document. He can't necessarily contradict what's in his biography. But there isn't a whole lot of social background of people who weren't considered important contributors to a cause. So I think Ralph Rotten made a good point.

    Another intriguing fact but in the world of literature. Edgar allen poe wrote the first detective novel. I don't know when the first detective as a professional and a job really existed because of this. It's another set of historical facts he could research. This can be googled in case there are any facts that aren't accurate.

    By amateur detective, I probably mean to say its used informally to describe how the person behaved socially. Looking up if the word detective existed at time is important too in an old dictionary. Some questions he probably needs to ask is what was expected of a person who did it for free? Another possible question maybe could be: What were the laws if possible at the time? To be a detective I imagine could be a novelty for the times. But is it a crime to be a detective ironically? If you do break the laws that allow them to do their work? Or allows them to do the conduct their private lives as a detective but not as a business. Maybe police were expected to do that. But that it's definitely true he needs to worry if the fiction can exist in the historical facts of the world. Were laws stricter back then and punishments stiffer?

    If the story is educational that is a bonus as well. Reading and having fun and learning about history is a good way of winning readers. I'd like to think history is studied because it lets you learn past mistakes made by people, society, and governments, that hopefully won't be repeated again. By knowing what happened as history it is worth studying to prevent it from repeating itself again.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; October 3rd, 2019 at 02:43 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
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  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by The Green Shield View Post
    When you write historical fiction and do research, how do you manage what you want to write about versus what is factually true?
    I think unless you are somehow claiming true-story or that your work is historically accurate, it doesn't really matter too much.

    My WIP is vaguely historical - its set in a historical time period and includes historical people, characters and events, but it's massively fictionalized. It's more Prince Of Thieves than some Ken Burns documentary, put it like that.

    I have tried to be historically accurate but not so much because I care about historians nitpicks and more because I want it to feel real. So what I find I am doing is borrowing from lots of historical events and characters and then skewing the chronology slightly - one event I write about occurring in September when it actually happened in April of that same year, because the story requires it. I have real historical characters interacting with other real historical characters who I highly doubt ever interacted in real life, though they could have done - I did make sure at least they were alive and the right age, I didn't go so far as to have Abraham Lincoln beating the snot out of Rasputin in a boxing match or anything.

    Bottom line: History is history and fiction is fiction. Historical fiction is to history what pumpkin spice latte mix is to actual pumpkins; There might be trace amounts of the real thing in there (and heck, perhaps you can even get an organic version that might have a little more than a trace...) but it's mostly sugar and artificial crap crafting a representation, a feeling. Needless to say, pumpkin spice also tastes much more pleasant than real pumpkin does.
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  3. #13
    Pumpkin spice never contained any pumpkins, rather, it's the set of spices that have always been used to transform pumpkins into things like pumpkin pie and other treats. No one had any problem with pumpkin spice until women decided they liked putting it into their lattes and sipping it.
    There's a lot about history that doesn't seem very historical. Not everything people did back then was traditional.
    When we dig, we find any number of characters that didn't fit the mold. These are all repressed and suppressed these days, because the historical record has been rewritten in favor of a specific image that is white washed and sterilized.
    There were any number of very accomplished women, disabled people, LGBT, POC, Etc. As years go by, people who are none of those things took credit for all of them, or simply said "We don't know who did this".
    Every time you start digging into the micro-scale of historical events, you will find a diverse, colorful crew of characters that look much like anyone you would put in a modern novel. Taken as the broad sweep you see in school, none of those people will appear.
    Don't be lured by the idea that social structures would restrict people like that out of existence. It simply isn't true. There are issues, of course, but the homogeneity of the history we know was created by after the fact censorship, not repression.

  4. #14
    I rewrote The Scarlet Letter, and a memorable scene in that book is totally inconsistent with their religious beliefs, as far as I can tell. With that foundation of quicksand, I was constantly wondering if my book had historical accuracy. Do people have assigned seats in church? What exactly are their undergarments? Would someone have to wear an A for that long? And on and on.

    I ended up explaining to the reader "When I had to choose between telling a good story and historical accuracy, I chose the good story. Ultimately, the issues in this book should relate to your 21st century life, or I have failed as an author." But I wasn't particularly happy with that.
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  5. #15
    I've genuinely encountered this issue myself. I've often become discouraged from writing anything historical in fear of not being historically accurate. I would say that you shouldn't be so much worried about historical accuracy as you should maintaining historical authenticity or believably. In your case with the deaf woman during the Civil War, such a person taking things into their own hands would most certainly be odd, and you should acknowledge that. At the same time, it is also important to remember that history is often stranger than fiction; I'm sure odder things than that occurred during that time in America's history. Do some research if you haven't already, try to grasp social norms of the period, and work from there.

  6. #16
    Or maybe he shouldn't base it on a real person that is very well known and write concerning the period showing no ignorance of history. Especially since he is a historian he will get the facts correct most of the time. Just my own opinion but too much accuracy may be a burden too great to please readers. Or maybe someone who passed away and not much is known of their lives. Which means they should not be important or recorded by history. Or maybe they should be forgotten by history.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  7. #17
    I think it's okay as long as it serves the story well, but a lot of writers nowadays re changing historical things around to satisfy modern PC, which I don't like.

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    I think it's okay as long as it serves the story well, but a lot of writers nowadays re changing historical things around to satisfy modern PC, which I don't like.
    Are you sure they are? Because the levels of whitewashing and intense homophobia and transphobia we are familiar with today are actually rather new. As recently as the 1920s, it wasn't uncommon to see "Boston marriages" with two women, for instance. "Homosexual" wasn't added to the Bible until 1941, when it was chosen as an alternative target with the imminent loss of segregation. There's a lot of LGBTQIA history through time; there were PoC in Europe, even in important roles.
    And anyways, I don't want to read about how awful people can be, I already know people are awful. I want to read a story.

  9. #19
    Oh well I guess some examples, of what I mean by changing history around in order to be modernly PC, would be say, The 2010 Robin Hood movie for example. In that movie, that change King John's wife age to adult age, where as in real history she was about 1-13 at the time, that the story takes place. But Hollywood didn't want to have a Robin Hood movie, where the villain was married to an underage girl, so they felt they had to change her to an adult for PC reasons.

    I tend to go by movies since I watch a lot of them as an aspiring screenwriter. Another example is Captain America: The First Avenger, which takes place during WWII, but there is a woman military officer of a high rank, and I don't think a woman would have had such a rank back then in the American military government. It was probably to please PC viewers. Or how there is no one smoking in a movie that takes place in the past, etc. Things like that is what I meant by changing history around to be PC.

  10. #20
    One, we can no more speak about the "historical Robin Hood" than we can discuss the "historical Gilgamesh", the story doesn't link to any apparent individual. It has as much historical evidence as there is for the protagonists of one of my novels.

    Two, there were a lot of women in various roles in the military during WWII. Support staff, including officers some of high rank, were very common, and several intelligence specialists (spies) were women. As I recall, the woman you are referring to was in the ORIGINAL canon they worked from; they would have needed to change the story to edit her out.

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