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Old May 9th, 2017, 02:43 PM   #31
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I think the earliest examples of what I would consider to be historical fiction are probably Shakespeare. I am of course open to a good argument on why something earlier should be considered historical fiction. (I only recently learned that Shakespeare is "modern english.")

As for anything at all in the dark ages, it is hard to separate fact from fiction anyway. Look at the ongoing thread on the Anglo Saxon Chronicles or read Bede. These works of supposed fiction have plenty of history in them.

King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc. I think are firmly planted in mythology which may have historical traces. They tell us a lot about customs and culture and about the people who imagined them, but they do not tell us much history.

-Dave K
I think you have it backwards. Bede and tne Anglo-Saxon Chronicles were supposed to be historical accounts, although they have some fiction in them. They were intended to be works of history, not fiction, although how reliable a history they are is an open question.

So is there a difference between a story set in the past and "historical" fiction? If so, what?

One possible difference is that histocial fiction would be fiction of real people set in real invents, the 'fiction' part being tne specific actions and dialogue of the characters to distinguish it from mere biography or historical reoporting. A story that was set in a real past, but with fictional characters and fictional events would not be "historical fiction" by that defintion.

I never thought about it, but would the "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" be historical fiction? The book had to take place at least 20 years or more before Mark Twain wrote it in 1876, since slavery still existed, and the civil war doesn't even appear horizon. How far back in time does one have to go to be a work of historical fiction anyways?
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Old May 10th, 2017, 07:56 AM   #32

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I think you have it backwards. Bede and tne Anglo-Saxon Chronicles were supposed to be historical accounts, although they have some fiction in them. They were intended to be works of history, not fiction, although how reliable a history they are is an open question.

LOL Indeed, silly me. I meant

"these works of supposed history have a lot of fiction in them."

Although, the opposite statement may be just as true. Like people that put a little bit of coffee in their sugar...


Quote:

So is there a difference between a story set in the past and "historical" fiction? If so, what?

One possible difference is that histocial fiction would be fiction of real people set in real invents, the 'fiction' part being tne specific actions and dialogue of the characters to distinguish it from mere biography or historical reoporting. A story that was set in a real past, but with fictional characters and fictional events would not be "historical fiction" by that defintion.

I never thought about it, but would the "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" be historical fiction? The book had to take place at least 20 years or more before Mark Twain wrote it in 1876, since slavery still existed, and the civil war doesn't even appear horizon.
It is perhaps historical "literature" to US, but at the time it was just a story. I wouldn't consider it historical fiction at all. Though I think history can be learned.

I.e. it tells us a lot about what was going through people's minds at the time. I think you also get a lot of historical detail through things the author simply takes for granted. We learn something of Anglo saxon feasting rituals and such by reading beowulf - hardly historical fiction, but historically significant nonetheless.

If I write a piece of fiction about modern day America my main character might spend his day typing on a keyboard and then go have lunch at McDonalds or something. 1000 years from now - what was this "keyboard?" and what is a "mcdonalds?" Those would be very interesting historical details.



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How far back in time does one have to go to be a work of historical fiction anyways?
This reduces to the same question of how much time has to pass before something is considered history, doesn't it? I don't know the answer. A sliding scale I imagine.

-Dave K
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Old May 10th, 2017, 11:59 AM   #33
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This reduces to the same question of how much time has to pass before something is considered history, doesn't it? I don't know the answer. A sliding scale I imagine.

-Dave K
How much time? Some years ago I did some supply teaching, and in one primary school I had to teach, as history, the first moon landing.
Now I clearly remember staying up to watch that landing live on TV.
When something you remember is history either not enough time has to pass, or you're getting old. I fear it's the latter.
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Old May 10th, 2017, 12:29 PM   #34

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I love Flashman's adventures as the lovable scoundrel romps his way through 19th century History. Knowing a wee bit about world history of the time, is an added bonus. Or perhaps knowing a bit of history is what helps us love Flashman's hidden hand in events.

Tom Brown? I didn't care much for him even as a child when I was first introduced to Rugby School. At that time and in that book, Flashman wasn't so lovable so much as a depiction of the bullies we encountered daily on the school yard. One of THEM grew up to get caught impersonating a doctor to get at medical narcotics, and ended up shooting himself rather than face the dishonor. Do people still do that, die before disgrace?

But Flashman, oh what a protagonist. We love the rascals, rogues, and all-round bounders who con their way through life blissfully uncaring of the chaos they leave in their wake.
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Old May 10th, 2017, 02:20 PM   #35
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I agree about Flashman - amusing, captivating, well-written and, on the thread subject, a brilliant inter-weaving of fact and fiction.

Does anyone else read Derek Robinson's books? They mostly concern the RAF in WW1 and WW2, fact and fiction blended, humour and black humour, combining respect for those who really went through these experiences with a wry and sceptical look at the myths. In my personal view they do what Catch 22 is claimed to do, but better (ie without the irritating, to me, style).
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Old May 15th, 2017, 05:53 AM   #36

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I'm so pleased to see so many replies to this thread. It's certainly given me a lot to think about and consider. Thank you, everyone!
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Old February 4th, 2018, 02:32 AM   #37
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Herodotus is often seen as the "Father of Hostory", but I think he could as well be seen as witing a mixture of "history" and something else, more what he believed or found interesting if not outright fiction.
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Old February 4th, 2018, 02:06 PM   #38

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Hello, everyone!

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on the following question:

How much history and how much fiction should an historical fiction book have?

Can a book have substantial fictional elements if the setting is historically accurate? And vice versa.
Who's your audience?
If it's YOU, go crazy.
If you want to sell it to Historum participants, it'd better be on the heavy end of the historical scales (you can make stuff up, but don't get stuff wrong: don't put Paul Revere at Antitum).

A general public audience? What demographic? Who would it appeal to? Teenage girl romances? Game of Thrones? Harry Potter?

There's no "generic" book. Action? Fantasy? Drama? Mystery?

Unless you're pitching it to historophiles (is that a word?), I'd work on making it an entertaining read, whatever your demographic. If historical fact gets "in the way" of the story (slows the pace, makes it like a school lecture), there's too much. If historical fact DRIVES the story, now you've got something. Don't try and show off what you know & educate: readers grab textbooks for that. Keep up the pace of your story ... make it pull the reader along. Think of historical fact as one of the tools in your kit to make a "story".

I think the "Spartacus" Netflix series in an interesting example of "bad". They pulled names and events out of history ... and completely made up nonsense in between. It's so far from any actual "fact", it's more "historically inspired." Sort of like "orange drink" as opposed to "orange juice."

The "Narcos" series is the opposite: so close to the actual fact, they slip in news footage from time to time (I found myself pausing, then Googling, then going "Holy CRAP! That actually happened?!!").

Both are technically "historical fiction."
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Old February 14th, 2018, 11:34 AM   #39
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I think how much historical fact in fiction depends on whether the book is meant to be historical or has fantasy or horror traits. For distance Ben Elton 'Time and Time Again' has time travel in it so the fact that the past is different to our past doesn't matter as much as it's although a fantasy book. Similar I've wrote a vampire comic set in medieval Hungary but I only use the history as a background to explain the situation, tone, clothes etc. it's not historically accurate in parts as it's main genre is horror comedy.
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Old March 11th, 2018, 12:02 PM   #40

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I write historical fiction on the side and I can tell you I first research the hell out of my time period and historical figures. That being said, when it comes to dialogue, you must get inside characters' heads (based on your research) and then use your writer's imagination to create realistic exchanges that take your readers back in time.
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