Richard III discussion

What do you think of made up history in your historical novels?

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message 1: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 1139 comments Mod
Interesting thread going on over at the Amazon HF discussions,

message 2: by Ikonopeiston (new)

Ikonopeiston (Ikon) | 385 comments That is a fascinating thread. You came off well in it and I think Elise would be a good fit for our group. ;)

I have given this question little thought but just off the top of my mind, I must say I prefer my made up history in novels rather than in biographies.

message 3: by MAP (new)

MAP | 181 comments I just joined a group on facebook called "Philippa Gregory is NOT an historian!" which should tell you pretty much how I feel about people playing fast and loose with historical facts. I realize that the point, sometimes, of historical fiction is to play with the "what ifs" but if you're going to do that, then you need to put a note in the back explaining what you made up, what you changed, and what's real. I wasn't a huge fan of Alison Weir's Elizabeth I novel, and I didn't like some of her choices in trading historical probability for fictional drama, but at least she had a big long note in the back explaining that those parts WERE fiction, and should be read that way.

Some other authors *cough cough* happily drag historical figures' name through the mud based on nothing but their own imagination, and then go on NPR and claim to be historians.

Can you tell I feel strongly about this?

message 4: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 1139 comments Mod
MAP, you go and come and comment. I'm still working on mine (I _do_ have to stop and work). PG is one of the worst of the lot, especially that people believe that what she's writing is true, and she does profess to be quite the historian on some of her blog interviews.

message 5: by MAP (new)

MAP | 181 comments I did. I basically just copied and pasted much of what I put here, but it's down there. :)

message 6: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 1139 comments Mod
Got side tracked by work again. I'll finish my rant and go read :)

message 7: by Jenn (last edited Aug 18, 2009 07:24AM) (new)

Jenn (jenn_reed) | 42 comments Read the thread. I think if people are willing to write about historic figures, that if they're more interested in a sexcapade, then they should not write about the historical figures but rather some fictional character in their midst with events swirling around them.

message 8: by Barb (last edited Jan 29, 2009 11:38AM) (new)

Barb | 145 comments M Ford over on Amazon said:
"The operative word is fiction. A disclaimer when the author departs from known historical events is both merited and necessary. However, when a gap of factual information exists and that gap makes the completion of the fictional work impossible, the author is well within rights to create the story to fill the gap. As a reader, it is my prerogative to do my own research into the historical events if I want to verify the author's interpretation. That allows the reader to grow and be entertained at the same time."

I completely agree with what MFord said and I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Fiction is fictional.

If as a reader you can't abide by what an author imagines you should most certainly stick to non-fiction.

message 9: by Jenn (last edited Jan 29, 2009 12:03PM) (new)

Jenn (jenn_reed) | 42 comments Fiction is fiction, historical fiction comes with strings attached. Just because the author has a "disclaimer" doesn't mean they can ride rough shod over the facts and not be accountable on some level. Some of the best authors have references and where they deviated from the facts. Penman does this very well.

Expectation when it comes to "historical":
1) Events, People, and most of the content dealing with the time are accurate.

2) Some gapping is applied when details are missing and can forward the plot logically, such as the creation of a fictitious confidant or a meeting that may or may not have occurred. I think making up some torrid affair that has no factual basis is questionable.

I've seen some works that completely go off the deep end and the only thing that is historical are some of the names, and a country, everything else is fantasy or alternate reality. In which case fiction/fantasy/sci-fi applies.

I'll be among the first to say that if a topic interests a reader, they should look beyond the fiction that got them there and read a non-fictional, academic work if they want more fact.

message 10: by Barb (new)

Barb | 145 comments Jenn,
I understand exactly what you are saying but these are your strings and standards.

I agree that when a book goes completely off the deep end I don't care for it and I will point that out in any reviews I write on it.

But I don't think there should be any rules for writers...or artists, if they want to paint Mary with feces it's a free country. That doesn't mean I like the product. And if I don't I'll be happy to tell you why.

message 11: by MAP (new)

MAP | 181 comments This is a tad off topic (that's what I'm good at) but my mother and I were recently discussing Philippa Gregory, and she said "A Philippa Gregory Novel is to a Dorothy Dunnet novel as a Snuggie infomercial is to Shakespeare."

I laughed so hard I cried.

Sorry to the Philippa Gregory fans...she just drives me nuts, as a creative writer and a "historian."

message 12: by Misfit (last edited Jan 29, 2009 03:26PM) (new)

Misfit | 1139 comments Mod
MAP wrote: "This is a tad off topic (that's what I'm good at) but my mother and I were recently discussing Philippa Gregory, and she said "A Philippa Gregory Novel is to a Dorothy Dunnet novel as a Snuggie inf..."

MAP, thanks I needed a laugh after my session with the physical therapist. Witch I swear it, she's evil evil evil!!

Back on topic, while I agree Barb has a good point that the author can write what they want, and we don't have to like it. However, I'd sure like to know those kinds of things going in to a book prior to dropping hard earned money especially when it's self-published (as the in the Amazon discussion is). I looked at the two reviews, and one definitely says its on the bodice ripper side -- I would want to know that in the product description.

I don't mind authors taking "artistic license" if it's believable and fits into the framework of the novel - or better yet follow Carrolly Erickson's example and call them historical entertainment.

I still have problems with throwing sex in just for the sake of it, because it's expected. I'm not even going to go into PG, but I have to admire authors that restrain from it, i.e. Susan Higganbotham in The Traitor's Wife. When you've got a ready made ripe for juicy salacious sex between Edward II and Hugh Despenser (sp?), but she had the good taste and sense not to fall into that trap. Less is still more IMO, but then that's still just my opinion.

It's all a very tough call and all boils down to personal choice and tastes and what we're looking for in our reading material. That's what I like about _honest_ reviews from people like Barb that aren't afraid to tell it like it is.

message 13: by Jenn (last edited Jan 29, 2009 04:34PM) (new)

Jenn (jenn_reed) | 42 comments I don't think they're 'my strings' specifically. There tends to be a debate out there in the net amongst bibliophiles at every strata regarding the categories of fiction and what the differences between romantic, science, historic and the crosses are.

I think that it is a shared responsiblity and that the onus shouldn't fall completely on the reader. As Misfit points out, good reviews help narrow the field, but not all reviews are helpful and sometimes they read like they have an axe to grind.

I expect some artistic license, but like sex for the sake of it, my particular nit is making something up out of whole cloth and passing it as historical-fiction.

Due to the questions I receive in a historical context in my volunteer efforts, I might be a little more biased toward which case it is a personal preference.


message 14: by Barb (new)

Barb | 145 comments Thanks Misfit,
I thought you and I might get to put some gloves on over this one! :0)

We all judge books (& people) by our own standards, yours are different than mine. And then we have to go out into the world and find what we like based on those standards.

And yes wouldn't it be nice if you could know what you were in store for before you started a book...which is part of what I like about reading everyone's reviews here and on Amazon, sometimes you can see what's in store and skip it.

I think I am a harsh critic and yet I don't think my standards (for historical fiction) are as strict as yours or Jenn's or MAP's. If they were I'm pretty sure I'd like even fewer books than I do now!

message 15: by Misfit (last edited Jan 29, 2009 05:15PM) (new)

Misfit | 1139 comments Mod
Barb, no gloves just sincere and honest debate :)

It's amazing even when I find someone who has the same reading tastes as mine are and then all of a sudden they're raving about something and I try it and I am just shaking my head wondering if they read the same book I did. Of course, that never happens in the reverse.

We just can't all like the same books nor perceive them all the same way - sometimes what is happening in one's life dictates how they perceive and/or enjoy a book. I know that September 2007 was a difficult month, jury duty at the wrong time workwise, short handed workwise, buried work wise when JD was over, a kitty who had been sick for some time finally succumbed (sp?), many things colored my reading picture and very little survived intact without wall damage.

I appreciate honest reviews and one does have to be careful to recognize them there are many shams out there on Amazon and other sites (oh, shall we start another thread?). If I'm not sure, I start at the library.

message 16: by Barb (new)

Barb | 145 comments Misfit,

We judge by our own standards AND our own experiences. What you said makes me think of a friend who had been betrayed by a spouse and hated The Mermaid Chair because of the way that infidelity was portrayed. Another friend who didn't have the same experience loved it.

And we are never all going to agree even if we have similar tastes...

I still can't believe you didn't like The Birth of Venus ;0)

message 17: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 1139 comments Mod
Barb wrote: "Misfit,

We judge by our own standards AND our own experiences. What you said makes me think of a friend who had been betrayed by a spouse and hated The Mermaid Chair because of the way that inf..."

Gad, I hated it, but may be I never gave it a chance, who knows??? All I know is it hit the wall and never came back.

I still can't get over the way everyone gushed over Mistress of the Sun and after reading Dumas' take on Louise in his Musketeers saga I flat out thought I was reading a different story than everyone else.

I do want to start a topic on reviews and reviewing, but I am much too tired today with my visit to the wicked physical therapist to attempt it. It's all I can do to stay awake until a decent hour to retire....

message 18: by MAP (new)

MAP | 181 comments You know Misfit, something just hit me about your post on Amazon, where you said you didn't like it when people made stuff up to "advance the plot."

...It's history! They don't need to think of something to advance the plot! The plot advanced, 100s of years ago! They have a ready-made plot advancer...what really happened! I realize there may be times when people's motivations are unclear and their actions seem strange and so things may need to be inferred or imagined that may or may not be totally accurate, but just pulling crud out of thin air really is pointless.

Sorry, just the ridiculousness of an author claiming he or she needed to make something up to "advance the plot" of SOMETHING THAT ALREADY HAPPENED suddenly hit me full force.

I'm not sure if I'm saying precisely what I'm thinking; I guess if people don't quite see what I'm getting at I can try to clarify.

message 19: by Barb (new)

Barb | 145 comments Does that mean that everything that happened a hundred years ago is interesting? I don't think so.

I read fiction because it's engaging and exciting...everything that happened in the past does not necessarily make for interesting or exciting reading.

I think that "pulling crud" out of thin air is called creative and it makes stories exciting and fun. When I want just the facts without "crud" I will read non-fiction.

And why is it so uncomfortable to imagine that things might have happened the way that the author suggests? How do we really know what happened when so much of recorded history is skewed by the victors?

Even that "full-monty" that Misfit hates so much in The King's Daughter, it absolutely could have would we know if it did?

message 20: by MAP (last edited Jan 30, 2009 03:56PM) (new)

MAP | 181 comments Why are they writing about that time/event in history if it's not interesting?

Deciding that the reason Edward killed George was because he knew about the plight troth = understandable (we don't truly know the reason, she had to think of something to make Edward's actions make some sort of sense) and is filling in gaps

Deciding Mary Boleyn was a virgin when she met Henry, and Anne really did have an incestuous relationship with her brother, because it's "more interesting" than the real story (which it's not, in my humble opinion) = pointless. Does that mean someone shouldn't/can't/should be imprisoned for writing it? No. But it's fiction. Fiction. Don't act like it's history! I personally choose not to read them. I don't mind if others read them, until I get in a historical discussion with someone and realize they're taking their "historical facts" from a novel. Someone -- author, reader, someone -- should be mindful enough to parse out what's history as well as we can guess and what is total complete fiction.

There's a difference between filling in gaps and just changing to the story for -- frankly -- no reason. The full monty may have happened. Who knows? Mary Boleyn being a virgin when she meets Henry VIII after spending years being known as the harlot of the French court? Unlikely. Anne Boleyn having sex with her brother? Unlikely, and btw imho, ultimately LESS dramatic than the real reasons he was over her.

I don't mind filling in gaps. I mind lies that are passed of as history. Whether that's Thomas More writing about Richard, or modern writers writing about Anne Boleyn, if they want to write stuff that's off the wall, they better not then try to pass of their work as history and well researched.

(edited to clarify)

message 21: by MAP (last edited Jan 30, 2009 03:22PM) (new)

MAP | 181 comments And BTW, before someone comes in and says "It's possible that those things were true..." I will just quote a friend of mine when we were having a similar philisophical (for 3rd graders!) discussion:

"It's also possible that 50 foot power rangers will come crush the cafeteria, but it's not gonna happen!"

Sorry, this post was really more so I could just use that quote (16 years later, and it still cracks me up) :) :)

*wanders off talking incoherently to herself*

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