Monday, January 4, 2016

How Many Facts Are Too Many?

post by Michelle Griep
There are two trains of thought on the writing of historical fiction . . .

One is the tight-lipped, whack-your-knuckles-with-a-ruler, accurate-to-a-fault stance. Characters speak, act, and think in an era-appropriate sense. And doggone it they better wear period-correct underpants or your writerly goose is cooked. For the reader this kind of storytelling can be a tad cumbersome and – dare I say – boring.

The other style formulates motivations and dialogue using a more contemporary twist. No thee’s and thou’s. Women think and behave as if they’ve burned their bras. Men are pretty tame and kind of wussy. This can yank the reader right out of the historicity of the drama, making it nothing but a soap opera in petticoats.

So . . . which one is better? Yeah, right. That’s like a woman asking her husband if her dress makes her look fat because there is no easy answer.

But I’ll give it a whirl.

Historically accurate tales and those that take contemporary license are both valid in their own ways. The trick is to not veer too far one way or the other, to blend them seamlessly together.

The goal of a historical writer is to make the reader believe they’ve entered a new reality and keep them there, staying as true to the era as possible without beating the reader over the head with too many facts. This, my friends, is no task for the timid. In fact, it’s dang hard.

So next time you read a historical fiction book that you really love, drop the author a short note and pat them on the back. Trust me. They need it.


chappydebbie said...

I simply enjoy the story without worrying about whether it's historically correct or not.....not that I would know.

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