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Old August 1st, 2016, 10:06 AM   #1

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How much history and how much fiction should an Historical Fiction book have?


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.
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Old August 1st, 2016, 02:38 PM   #2

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Considering that fiction is for entertainment and not for educating, the sky is the limit. It really doesn't matter how much fiction a novel has as long as it engages the reader.
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Old August 1st, 2016, 03:09 PM   #3

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There is no set amount of 'fact' required, just whatever is needed to drive the story along.
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Old August 2nd, 2016, 02:05 PM   #4

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I'd say a bare minimum for me is knowledge of the people/time... from there, do as you wish.
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Old August 2nd, 2016, 02:08 PM   #5

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for me the settings should be reasonably accurate, as well as the characterisations of the main figures, and their cultures/environments.

Gladiator is obviously historical fiction, but it gets the role of Emperor, Marcus Aurelius and Commodus's personalities, the Senate, and gladiatorialism and even Roman slavery pretty accurate. Even Roman battle plans, and Maximus who evidently never existed as a general and the Emperor's favourite.

Vikings gets the tone of the Norse well, even if Rollo and Ragnar were never brothers.
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Old August 3rd, 2016, 06:44 AM   #6

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It's fiction, so people who buy it should know not to take everything at face value. Then again, historical fiction authors should acknowledge they're working with a real past and act accordingly - not do whatever they please for the sake of the plot as though it were high fantasy.
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Old August 3rd, 2016, 09:33 AM   #7
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I am a bit of a purist (and a hypocrite) when it comes to my historical fiction: I want the author to get it as right as they can when it comes to the society and the events. In short, if I am reading about the War of the Roses and the Battle of Barnet, the Kingmaker should end up dead, for instance. Since my ability to detect discrepancies depends on my previous knowledge, I might happily give some stuff a pass since I don't know it is wrong and enjoy it (this is the hypocrite part). But when I find a glaring error, it can sour the reading experience for me.

A case in point: Conn Iggulden's Emperor -series. It simply took too many liberties with the historical events that I could not finish the first book. Even though Iggulden freely admitted making those changes in order to tell the story he wanted to tell. It simply didn't feel to me like a story of THE Julius Caesar, but some alternative world which simply shared some names. A fantasy story using the historical names.

Last edited by Whyte; August 3rd, 2016 at 09:35 AM.
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Old August 8th, 2016, 11:56 AM   #8

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I do agree that things should be as accurate as possible when describing actual historical events and people. I, personally, shy away from including real-life people in my writing because I didn't know them personally and wouldn't want to assume I could "guess" what they were like in life based upon contemporary accounts from friends, the newspapers etc.

I do try to root my writing in the real life historical setting as much as I can in order to provide a sense of place and to give the reader enough of a backstory/back drop to be able to know when/where the story is set. I was really interested to hear what you guys had to say though. My writing is openly about a fictitious group of detectives but, at the same time, I strove to include the reference sources of the historical information I found to base the characters' professions on, the setting on, even the wallpaper on and indicted where (and how) I'd drawn upon this information in my writing.

I do get paranoid about accuracy in my writing; what have your experiences of this been like? When you've tried to write Historical Fiction, I mean (if you have).
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Old August 8th, 2016, 12:00 PM   #9
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Not a genre I'm into but I'd have thought a fair proportion of history is needed otherwise you're just writing that a story that happens to use the names of people from history.
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Old September 1st, 2016, 07:17 AM   #10

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Thank you, everyone! It's been really fascinating to read all your replies to this question!
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