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your knowledge of characters, help or hindrance

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Kveto from Prague
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your knowledge of characters, help or hindrance

Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri January 16th, 2009, 7:22 pm

just finished a book (falcon of palermo) and a thought has occured. does your knowledge of the actual historical life of a character enhance or detract from your enjoyment of seeing that character in HF.

let me try to explain. The book i read was about Frederico II a historical character of whom i know a great deal about. So when i was reading the HF book about him i knew basically what was going to happen next. im not sure if this helped my enjoyment of the book. I knew for instance how his crusade would turn out, where he would die, etc. perhaps a bit less knowledge of him would have increased my interest from a "what going to happen next?" angle.

by way of contrast i can remember enjoying reading about characters about whom i knew little and feeling surprised and excited about what happened next.

im not sure, often my knowledge of a character helps me enjoy a book more and sometimes it actually has the reverse effect.

anyone else felt this delima before? just curious.

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Post by boswellbaxter » Fri January 16th, 2009, 7:44 pm

If the author hasn't done adequate research or takes liberties with the known facts without coming clean about it, my knowledge of the character does detract from my enjoyment of the novel (to the extent of Mr. Book meeting Mr. Wall). Otherwise, it doesn't--in fact, I'm very likely to buy a novel about a character that I'm already interested in and knowledgeable about.
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Libby
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Post by Libby » Fri January 16th, 2009, 7:48 pm

I know what you mean. When you know the basic story there are no surprises and that can sometimes make for a less enjoyable experience. Knowing how it will all end can reduce the 'page turning' effect of a story that you don't know.

But it is interesting to see how authors re-tell stories and the individual interpretations they bring to them. If their vision is similar to your own it can be a rewarding experience, but if they don't develop the character as you see them you can sometimes find yourself thinking 'no he/she would never have said/done that'.
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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Fri January 16th, 2009, 8:34 pm

Yeah but that is made up for by the thrill of seeing a character you know a lot about come to life!

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri January 16th, 2009, 8:46 pm

[quote=""Libby""]I know what you mean. When you know the basic story there are no surprises and that can sometimes make for a less enjoyable experience. Knowing how it will all end can reduce the 'page turning' effect of a story that you don't know.

But it is interesting to see how authors re-tell stories and the individual interpretations they bring to them. If their vision is similar to your own it can be a rewarding experience, but if they don't develop the character as you see them you can sometimes find yourself thinking 'no he/she would never have said/done that'.[/quote]

thats always happens when you get a vision of the way a character would think/act. i think its one of the tough things about writing about actual personages. case in point, this novel which i did enjoy for the most part. but "my" frederico was a bit more intellectual and devious than the authors version. but theres really no way "my" idea of him will match up with anyone elses.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri January 16th, 2009, 8:49 pm

[quote=""Volgadon""]Yeah but that is made up for by the thrill of seeing a character you know a lot about come to life![/quote]

of course i prefer to read about characters i know about. i was interested enough in said character in the first place to learn about him/her. im just pointing out that there is occasionally a downside to knowing too much.

but if the writer does a good job it might not matter :-)

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Post by Rowan » Sat January 17th, 2009, 5:39 pm

I read HF to learn about people and places in history. The more I can read, the more I learn. But I don't take everything at face value. I do my own research and talk to others.

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Post by annis » Sat January 17th, 2009, 5:49 pm

It's an interesting subject, because I think that it's difficult in a biographical novel to find a balance between getting the facts right and bringing the main character to life. Maybe to do that the author might need to take a few liberties. I 'm thinking again of Ross Laidlaw's "Theoderic" which was meticulously researched and footnoted, but somehow in reading it I never got a sense of Theoderic himself as a real living, breathing person.

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Post by gyrehead » Sat January 17th, 2009, 7:36 pm

a huge hindrance for me. To the point that I now tend to avoid taking on books that have a main character I am rather familiar with. My blood pressure takes too many hits reading silly and affected "dramas" the author interts willy-nilly into a historical personage's life. I don't want a cut and dried repeat of what is known. I enjoy literary license to some extent. But lately it is either write typical bodice ripper but make it, say, Elizabeth I who is getting the rub and tickle. Or it is deliberate flaunting of what is at least known or generally accepted about that person and turn it on the ear. Sort of the tabloid approach to writing historical fiction (Alison Weir I looking, no, I'm glaring daggers at you and your incredibly vapid Elizabeth who doesn't have a clue she is being groped or what that means for her in her position).

But I also dislike the historical novel that doesn't go any further into the events or the people. If the author goes no further than say, the easy facts that you might see on say Jeopardy (going on that game show -- know your wives of Henry the Eighth), I tend to find myself believing, rightly or wrongly, that the author doesn't actually understand the whys and hows certain events occured.

I'm probably missing some great stories in the process. But my suspension of disbelief is tripped up with incredible ease the first time it looks like the author either just went Wiki with his research or just plain did not care and just needed a fresh setting to lump his characters and mundane plot on.

Reading about characters I know about requires a deft touch that I think is just too rare or too hard for me to spot from reading the first couple of pages before a buy. However I have read some books in this area that I found myself rifling through my own history books and seeing if what the author put forth was correct. If the author is a great storyteller, this was not so much a tripping up point so much as it was a challenge. Simply because I've found that if I'm liking the book and still wondering about the "truth" of the matter and then research it, it is often a matter of there being no known truth on that matter. It is the author taking license or the author just taking a logical leap that hadn't occured to me. In such instances, it is the author proving that if he doesn't actually know the facts, he does know his period and his characters and what might motivate them and what might happened to lead to what is known. And that I do like.

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Post by Divia » Sat January 17th, 2009, 8:47 pm

It depends. Most times I can just let it ride unless the details are majorly fudged then I can't.

But it does help to be as educated on some topics. For instance my Tudor knowledge pales in comparison to many on this MB. They find details that wouldn't know and I sometimes feel I am more free to enjoy the story.
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