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Thread: How Historical Does Historical Fiction Have to Be?

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  1. #38
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Oof, this is an old thread, and apparently me 6 years ago was more tolerant of Phillipa Gregory than current me is.

    A couple things to add. There's a major difference between what I call biographical historical fiction, about real historical figures, and historical fiction that it set in a particular time but is about fictional characters. There's an obligation in both cases to be accurate to the greatest possible degree, but in the case of biographical fiction you have an added layer of accuracy to consider. You really have to do justice to the real people.

    As far as I'm concerned, when it's not about real people, there's very little reason to not be completely accurate in your historical details. If some date or time isn't convenient, make it convenient. You're the writer; get creative. Since the people and events are made up, you bend them to history, not history to them. Been there, done that.

    On the other hand, if it's a real historical person, in spite of what I said above, there may be some need to choose your battles and simplify a bit. I ran into this a bit with my most recent ms. I was covering 25 years rather closely, then covered the next 40 years quickly, which meant 65 years--a lot to cover in one novel. And there is a lot of info out there about the subjects of the ms. So of course I had to choose what to write about. I wrote about, for instance, one character's fiance but not about the tryst he had with a French actress. And instead of five or six different Scottish holidays, I kept it to three. Consequently, it's not entirely accurate. But what is in there is totally accurate.

    Another something to add: there is factual accuracy and there is social accuracy, for lack of a better term. In other words, you can get the streets of Georgian London precisely right, but it's going to still fall completely flat if you don't know how society worked and what people expected/understood of themselves and the people around them in the 18th century. It's really easy to assume (unconsciously even) that people in earlier times either thought like aliens or thought like 21st-century Western society. Neither is true.

    So, to answer the original question . . . as historically accurate as humanly possible.
    Last edited by angeliz2k; 08-23-2019 at 05:26 PM.
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