Archive | 11:30 AM

Historical Fiction: How Accurate Should It Be?

16 Apr

I’ve had this post in my draft folders for ages! As I’m seeing a small drought in reviews and other such things to post about, I thought this would be a good time to brush the dust off and write this article response.

I love historical fiction. I read it a lot and I’m writing a 1920s novel. I love the research and learning that come along with writing this book. I know a lot more about 1920s cars and mixed drinks than most people do and it makes me really happy whenever there’s a 20s reference I can recognize. So reading this article from The Guardian piqued my interest.

How true should historical fiction be? by Stephanie Merritt

I believe there’s a slight license to change the past when writing historical fiction: slight. In my novel, I’ve removed some of the notorious mobsters of the era to replace them with my own characters. I think that’s perfectly fine. Maybe you disagree and want to fight me in the comments. Go for it. There is a line with this that I will not cross, however. I’m not going to introduce space travel or repeal prohibition or anything else that would alter the culture of the time. I’m going to do my research about electricity availability and what a high school boy would take for lunch. The details matter and I know that if I were my own reader, I would appreciate this.

I’ve read novels that took things a bit too far. When I read The Tilted World, I knew some of the 20s facts were a bit too stretched. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if there had been an author’s note. I think these make all the difference because it’s a writer’s way to saying, “Yes, I know this is wrong but for the sake of story, I changed it.” Then  you know the author did his or her research even though those who are historically savvy can point out holes in the setting.

So, a bit of a short post for you all today, but I’m curious to see what you think. Does inaccurate historical fiction bother you? Does an author’s note make it all better? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Until next time, write on.

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