Historical Fiction by Jo Beverly
Regardless of the research an author does, historical fiction cannot be relied on as a historical fact. The author of the novel is writing about a world that is most likely not familiar to them. The past is a foreign or even alien world. Readers enjoy historical fiction as “it’s a form of time travel.”(1.1).
There are books on everyday life, but these should not be relied on too much, as they cover too long of a period of time. A book that covers a time period such as the Middle Ages is a stretch because it is a period of at least five hundred years. It would be much more reasonable for a historical fiction writer to cover a time period of ten years or less.
“Details often are crucial to the story.” (2.6). Small details, such as how the characters make breakfast, or operate their transportation, help the reader to understand the story and the time period more fully. Spot research is also crucial. It will not be a huge part of the novel but it adds invaluable depth and texture.
All historical fact is in some way fiction. It always seems that history is written by those who won the wars. One does not often hear their country speaking of when they lost. The closest to truth one can get, is the words of people living in the particular time period. This can be retrieved through their letters, diaries or memoirs, plays, novels, and political speeches. Often writers will misunderstand this information as it is from another time period and a different part of the world.
“Historical novelists are interpreters of the past for readers in the present.” (4.4). Facts alone may not get across the truth the author is trying to convey. Often times the writer has to use language that will best convey the truth to the modern reader.
Historical Fiction: Get more than just the facts right by John Ames
“One key to the future may lie in the past.” (1.2). American’s like to read things that are at least similar to history. Historical fiction offers suppliers a favourable supply-and-demand balance. There are not many writers who are willing or interested enough to develop the techniques that are required for writing historical fiction.
Editors are interested in historical fiction as “a well-written historical can break up the repetitive, mind-numbing monotony.” (1.5). It gives history a welcome change of perspective, but often times writers only use contemporary TV and movies as their frame of reference. Writing historical fiction does place unique demands on the writer, which would include the need to keep reading history.
“Fiction writers are entertainers, not scholars.” In these novels, history does not dominate the story. Instead, it merely provides a backdrop or for the novel to take place.
Writers need to collect data from the period they are writing about. Special attention must be shown to details such as vocabulary, clothing, and money. Historical fiction also requires careful editing to avoid embarrassment on the author’s part. These writers must monitor their language so the ideas do not sound too contemporary.
“Writing historical fiction isn’t for everybody, so those who develop a skill for it will definitely find receptive markets.” (4.4).
Writing backward: Modern models in historical fiction by Anne MacLeod
Historical fiction should be a mix of good fiction and good history. Writers of history interpret it by selecting, describing, and explaining historical evidence. These interpretations are subject to endless revision over time. They differ between who is interpreting it, just like the loser’s version of the war never matches the winner’s.
“Authors and publishers have become sensitive to how their books portray people who were often overlooked or patronized in earlier literature.” (1.3). Many times, historical fiction that is written for children avoids the unpleasant realities of the past and shows happy, but historically doubtful stories. These authors have removed the less attractive pieces of the past to make their novels meet the social and political preferences of today.
Historical fiction does include some facts, but they often play the modern sensibilities. The characters experience their current society like they are time travelers, where there is no racism, sexism, and religious bigotry.
These novels are putting the truth at stake. They often show rebellion as “nearly painless and nearly always successful.” (4.2). Historical fiction often overlooks those who suffered greatly due to their rebellion.
Most people in society are not rebels like these novels show them to be. As members of society, they share its convictions. Historical fiction writers make their protagonists exceptions to their cultures. Because of this, the reader does not learn much about how people of a past society saw their world.
Historical fiction suggests that these people of another time understood or should have understood the world as we do now. This drains human history of its fine distinction and variety. In reality, these people saw the world differently.
“Historical fiction is not only a denial of historical truth, but a failure of imagination and understanding that is as important to the present as to the past.” (4.5).
Beverly, Jo. “Historical Fiction.” The Writer (Boston) 118.7 (2005): 36. eLibrary. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://literature.proquestlearning.com/quick/displayItem.do?QueryName=criticism&ResultsID=12DD4984FD3&forAuthor=0&ItemNumber=52>.
MacLeod, Anne S. “Writing Backward: modern models in historical fiction.” The Horn Book Magazine (Boston) 74.1 (1998): 26. eLibrary. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://literature.proquestlearning.com/quick/displayItem.do?QueryName=criticism&ResultsID=12DD4984FD3&forAuthor=0&ItemNumber=79>.
Ames, John E. “Historical Fiction: Get more than just the facts right.” The Writer (Boston) 117.11 (2004): 34. eLibrary. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <http://literature.proquestlearning.com/quick/displayItem.do?QueryName=criticism&ResultsID=12DD4984FD3&forAuthor=0&It