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Romance > Historical accuracy, is it important?

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message 1: by L.A. (new)

L.A. Hilden (Lahilden) | 106 comments Hello Everyone,

So I was over on the Amazon boards and came upon this discussion about historical accuracy and how important it is in novels. And I have to say I was amazed by the responses. People seemed to tend not to care if their historicals are accurate. As a history major and a historical romance writer I have to say this conversation took me somewhat by surprise. Yesterday, I had made myself check the word shenanigan which I used in my Regecy and realized it was an Americanism from the 1850's. See I knew that word had just not sounded right. Perhaps errors don't bother people but they drive me crazy. So what are your thoughts? How important is accuracy to you?

message 2: by Guido (new)

Guido Henkel (GuidoHenkel) | 51 comments I actually wrote a blog post about this very subject a little while ago

message 3: by L.A. (new)

L.A. Hilden (Lahilden) | 106 comments I will check it out Guido, thanks.

message 4: by L.A. (new)

L.A. Hilden (Lahilden) | 106 comments I read your article and it was really good. Like you, I didn't enjoy my history studies, until I met one college professor who posed questions just like the one on your site. Questions to pull in the student, to make them think, it was a great class. So great I went on to major in the subject. :)

message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy Corwin (AmyCorwin) | 4 comments I've written a couple of blogs about this and am actually part of an author panel discussing it at the Malice Domestic.

In a nutshell--it's important.
But it's also important to make your characters into people that modern readers can relate to, which makes it tricky since most modern readers would be appalled at the attitudes and behavior of folks in the past. It's a tricky line, that's for sure.

And then there are the little things which even historians argue about.

But despite all the difficulties, I think it behooves the writer to make the story as accurate as possible, within the bounds and needs of the story.

message 6: by Lily (new)

Lily Author (Lilyauthor) | 69 comments There are a lot of technical details that will go into a novel, that readers don't notice or even care about. After all, you never see readers describe a book by saying "The protagonist was appropriately conflicted by the antagonist." Nope, readers just say, man, that bad guy in the story was pure evil!

The same goes for historical accuracy. Readers usually don't even notice, half the time the won't even realize it's historically accurate. I've even heard readers complain the history didn't make sense therefore it's inaccurate, when in fact, they just didn't know the history to begin with.

So I'm with Amy on this one. At the very least, it never hurts to go the extra mile and make it historically accurate :)

message 7: by Nicki (new)

Nicki Markus (nickijmarkus) | 61 comments I am a history fan and am drawn to books set in my 'favourite' periods. Nothing would put me off such a book quicker than finding an accuracy. So for me as a reader it is important.
As a writer I've written mainly fantasy/paranormal so far and so it hasn't been an issue. I would love to do paranormal in an historic setting in the future though. but I wouldn't do so unless I had the time to research and get things right. I'm a perfectionist.

message 8: by L.A. (new)

L.A. Hilden (Lahilden) | 106 comments I tend to learn as I read and nothing bothers me more than inaccuracy. I don't like to be bogged down with dates or war stories, and I cannot stand old world English, but accuracy is a must. When something is wrong in a story, it pulls me from the book which irritates. I then get made at the author for not doing their research and mad at the editor for not catching the error. I think you are all right and there's a fine line between writing historicals to fit history and writing a historical to fit modern day readers. I was just surprised by how many people didn't care if their historicals were accurate, and there was alot in that catagory. If I want to read something completely made up, I would read a Harry Potter book. But when I'm pulled into history, I want to feel like I'm really there and that includes correct details. :) Thanks for your comments.

message 9: by Amy (new)

Amy Corwin (AmyCorwin) | 4 comments The hardest thing, though, is when you do your research and find out something that your readers will *think* is an inaccuracy, but is not. I'm always torn when that happens. In fact, it happens a lot with dialog and figures of speech. There are some that "sound modern" and are, in fact, quite old.

But I'm usually too chicken to use them because I don't want to argue with my readers about something that inconsequential. I just rephrase it. In some cases, where I've wanted to be historically accurate and know some folks will question it, I add an "Author's Notes" section at the back of the book, explaining little known or odd facts. I love other author's "Author's Notes" and sometimes they're almost as good as a novel in themselves!

message 10: by Terri (new)

Terri R | 4 comments I absolutely expect historical accuracy or at least "realistic" accuracy. I think Amy solution is a great idea. If I am reading romance or fiction I am reading the story and while I want the facts feel accurate the last thing I want is to be distracted from the story quibbling over a minor fact.

message 11: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Clemmons (Caroline_Clemmons) | 27 comments L.A. wrote: "Hello Everyone,

So I was over on the Amazon boards and came upon this discussion about historical accuracy and how important it is in novels. And I have to say I was amazed by the responses. Pe..."

I really, really care if the history is accurate. To make errors is just sloppy writing and lazy research. Makes a book a wallbanger for me.

message 12: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Clemmons (Caroline_Clemmons) | 27 comments Amy wrote: "I've written a couple of blogs about this and am actually part of an author panel discussing it at the Malice Domestic.

In a nutshell--it's important.
But it's also important to make your characte..."

Okay, you're correct. I don't like heroines under twenty, yet in historic times women were long married by then. I guess that's why i love Amanda Quick. Her heroines are old enough for me to identify with.

message 13: by L.A. (new)

L.A. Hilden (Lahilden) | 106 comments Thank you for all the great comments. Amy, I have done the same thing with my Regency books, where I know the word or description was used at the time, but I also know the average reader may be pulled from the book with the wording so I change it to appeal to todays reader. There is a fine line between writing historical fiction that sounds as if it came from that time and writing historical fiction to appeal to modern day readers. I read a Georgette Heyer last week and truthfully I didn't like all the old English phrasing. Of course that's just me, many rave about her books. It's certainly a interesting topic to discuss.

I also write time travel and I blogged about my new herione having a potty mouth in Regency England (she was sent from the 21st century to the 19th). So because she occasionally drops the f-bomb I was concerned historical readers would be shocked and turned off by the book. I put a paragraph from the book on a blog to get feedback, to see if Desirea's words were too harsh, but people tended to be more shocked to see the word Dude, then the f-word. It all just comes down to a matter of preference and I prefer to have all historical information given to me correctly. When I used an island destination in one of my stories, I put an author's note in the back just to explain the fascinating history I learned during my research. I like when authors include their author notes. :)

message 14: by Elisabeth (new)

Elisabeth Nelson (elisabethnelson) | 4 comments In my own writing, I often draw my inspiration from the real history, so I make every effort to be accurate when it comes to the "objective" historical facts. I create the fiction around the facts; the facts dictate the story. On the other hand, sometimes it is the period that intrigues me, and I spend much less time worrying about detailed factual accuracy. I am simply trying to capture the feel of the era. This distinction carries over in what I enjoy reading. I do not expect a lot of factual detail in what I call a period piece. I do expect a lot factual detail in a novel based upon real events. What bothers me considerably, however, is a novel premised upon an error relating to an objective historical fact, which is different from the interpretation of historical facts or the "What if" novels that suggest what might have happened if something else had happened in the past.
On a side note, I find the more difficult challenge in writing historical fiction is the advantage of hindsight. What I know, my characters could not possibly know, and I think maintaining their ignorance, the good, the bad, the ugly of their attitudes, behaviors, etc., is just as important as being accurate with the historical facts. My favorite historical novels are those that make me love the characters in spite of, or because of, their flaws, including the villian you love to hate. So while it may be difficult to do, I think it is possible to reflect the time without being offensive to the modern day audience. I trust, too, that people who read historical fiction do not expect 21st century sensibilities in 18th and 19th century characters.

message 15: by L.A. (new)

L.A. Hilden (Lahilden) | 106 comments Hi Elisabeth,

I'm like you. Sometimes I will find something in history and my story becomes centered around what was occuring at the time. I agree that characters can't know everything and they need to be flawed like real people. Thanks for commenting.

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