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Ficto-Biography?/Bio-fiction

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Christina
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Ficto-Biography?/Bio-fiction

Post by Christina » Sat January 17th, 2009, 11:07 pm

When people think of historical fiction, many think of stories set in another era, or using real historical characters and taking them into places they never went. I really feel it's time for another name for a different but similar genre. Supposing there is a book which uses no fictional characters, but takes the research into real people's lives and simply adds the author's interpretation of their conversations, thoughts and feelings. Many, many books do this of course - C.W, Gortner and Sandra Worth spring to mind at once. There are some Romanov books which I really dislike because they take real historical people and create fictional characters around them - they take the children of the Tsar, for example, and give them lives they never lived. The Disney film 'Anastasia' did that, and Carolly Eirkson's book was equally a flight of fancy.

When a person or whole family who actually lived means a great deal to you, and you write of them as you see them but in the genre of a novel, and your writing is based on accurate historical facts, shouldn't there be a different word for it than simply, "Historical Fiction" ? Is it fiction? Or is it the author's interpretation of fact? Isn't there a fine line between the two?

Having read so many 'factual' biographies of people whom I love, I sometimes come away thinking the author didn't know them at all. That might be arrogance on my part, but there are people of the past with whom we feel a great empathy and when an author of a factual account seems to merely reguritate 'facts' it is, to me, less true, less real than a novel.

Ultimately :D my question is....Is there another word for historical 'fiction' grounded in reality? Ficto-biography? Bio-fiction? Truth on another level? :rolleyes:

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Post by Libby » Sun January 18th, 2009, 10:24 pm

'Faction' is a word I've come across that is used to describe the merging of fact and fiction. So maybe it should be historical faction.
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Post by Christina » Sun January 18th, 2009, 10:50 pm

Historical faction sounds just right :-) .

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Post by Volgadon » Sun January 18th, 2009, 10:51 pm

Ugh why invent a word which already exists for something else. Fiction is perfectly fine, because no matter how carefully you research things, you have to fictionalise. Nobody know exactly what Aurangzeb (a randomn example) said, let alone thought. No, fiction is a prefectly useful term.

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Post by LoveHistory » Tue January 20th, 2009, 8:32 pm

Volgadon makes a good point. If you're looking for something closer to reality you can always try a non-fiction book.

And just cause I'm feeling picky today I'll point out that Disney was not responsible for that ridiculous Anastasia. It had great music, and Bartok was funny, but come on! We have 20th Century Fox to thank for that one.

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Post by Christina » Tue January 20th, 2009, 10:44 pm

Well...yes and no :-) . Oh, firstly, the whole Anastasia thing - yes, 20th Century Fox and a dozen others since. It's a lovely idea, but just not so. And, much as I think Ingrid Bergman a great actress, she just wasn't anything like Anastasia.

My difficulty is this: non-fiction books appeal to people who have an interest in your subject. Having first written a biography of my subject, I found it rather stifling to be confined by what can be proved. Whatever can't be proved by archives and primary sources, is seen as speculation. That's fair enough and it's true that maybe we can't know exactly what someone thought/felt unless there is proof. Of course, we seldom write or record our own inner experiences so how can there ever be proof of that? How can I prove I feel something? I can't. In the world of biographers and academia, there is a kind of 'snobbery', I think. Golly!! I experienced this when I wrote to some people about writing my subject's life as a novel and their reponse was so snootyy ("I have researched this extensively...how dare you??" - like I hadn't researched it and didn't know it to my fingertips!! LOL). But what if you really want to get to the heart of someone. So, you read their letters, watch their life unfold, see how you think they saw the world and write it into a novel simply so that you can include the feelings, thoughts. By writing it as a novel, you are not claiming it is definitely how they saw the world, but, after extensive research, it's your interpretation of it. Isn't that closer to the truth than simply a series of events and superficial gleanings from archives?

Then there are historical novels, which take a character from history and make up a whole fantasy around them. As an example, the numerous stories of the Tsar's daughters who supposedly survived that horrific execution, had various affairs with guards and did all kinds of things that were just so out of character with those real people! Is that the same category as what I just described? I think not.

And then there are books like 'The Mudlark', which is obvious fiction - the story of the little urchin meeting Queen Victoria - but the portrayal of the real Queen Victoria (in the film version, right down to the slightly German accent!) is so spot on that it seems real.

Then, there is historical fiction in which the fictional characters live in a particular era. The events of the era are accurate, but the characters are entirely fictional.

It just seems there are so many threads of historical fiction and sometimes 'historical fiction' is too broad a term.

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Post by Volgadon » Wed January 21st, 2009, 2:58 pm

I think you are better off explaining your book than you are creating a new genre. Fiction is telling a story, non-fiction is a study of people, places or events, historical fiction is fiction set in the past. Faction is just silly. A faction of what would be my reaction.

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Post by EC2 » Wed January 21st, 2009, 4:48 pm

I do know where you are coming from Christina. I use psychic research for my own fiction about real people. I'm convinced that what I get through is bang on the money, but I can't prove it to anyone and if I run my material past academics, they either scoff, or agree with me but daren't say so in public for fear of their own reputations (I've had both happen and some of the agreement has come from eminent scholars). The upshot is that in myself I feel I 'know' my subjects as well as anyone is ever going to do - and that includes from inside them looking out.
However, naming the genre? I think Volgadon is right. It has to come under the umbrella of historical fiction. There are still pieces I have to fill in with my imagination, even if it's imagination based on first hand knowledge, and thus it is story telling. The reading public might be au fait with the broad brush strokes of genre, but disecting it down can get complicated. Best to explain on your website and blog and when you give talks. But yes, I well understand your frustration!
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Christina
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Post by Christina » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 11:01 pm

I do agree, Volgadon, that faction sounds silly :-) . At the same time, I wonder how much 'factual' biography is, in fact, fiction. So often the same old stories - which were myths from the start - are repeated and historical characters are written off as black and white, good and bad, heroes or villains. So much depends on the viewpoint of the author that I am thinking that everything, to some extent, is fiction, and everything to some extent is 'fact'...But that's a separate issue.

EC2, how truly fascinating that you use psychic research! And how courageous of you to write of it, knowing that it could be met with a great deal of mockery. I have never done that and I do believe it and understand totally how you feel you 'know' them and admire you for saying so :-)
All I know is that it has often happened that I write something, feel it to be so and afterwards come across a historical document/letter/account of an event that I have never seen before, which confirms what I already felt/knew to be so and had written. More than that, being in places where these historical characters lived, can sometimes have such an effect on us - a sense of knowing and a kind of 'nostalgia' for what we have never known (in this life, anyway ;-) ). I agree with 'Hamlet': "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than this world dreams of...."

So, in the end, I yield :-) . There is no alternative term for the genre; only historical fiction....Hmm...

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