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Do you prefer real or imagined characters?

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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Leyland
Bibliophile
Location: Travelers Rest SC

Do you prefer real or imagined characters?

Postby Leyland » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 4:57 pm

An imagined character loosely created as a composite of known traits and class background based on real people of a particular era, and then set among actual recorded events is my favorite kind. A storyteller can take more license when imagining and conveying a good story using a fairly solid foundation. I'm not saying a composite character needs to have a multiple personality disorder per se, but I'd not be as concerned with an author getting all the facts just right if the character never existed in real life. I also like a few supporting characters to be 'real' and for them to be as factually represented as possible.

Judith Merkle Riley and Brenda Rickman Vantrease are two authors that come to mind who have created some mighty interesting characters.
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams ~ Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Ode

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LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 5:02 pm

It really just depends. Sometimes a story with imagined characters can be a much better read as the author is not restricted by known history. But I've read lots of good novels with real characters as well. My current fav being the William Marshall one by EC!
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Year That Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 5:07 pm

I don't think I mind - it's the story and style of writing which count with me. As long as the book holds my interest, it can be about a real-life or fictional character.
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Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Body in the Ice by A J Mackenzie & A Death in the Dales by Julia Chapman
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 7:38 pm

I think if I know a character actually existed, then it gives my reading of the book an extra frisson.

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michellemoran
Bibliophile
Contact:

Postby michellemoran » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 7:41 pm

I probably lean a little more toward real characters, although if the historical setting is rich enough and the story is absolutely compelling - Girl With a Pearl Earring and Memoirs of a Geisha, imo - then I really don't care if the characters are fictional.
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Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 9:13 pm

It doesnt matter to me as long as the story is good. :)
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boswellbaxter
Bibliomaniac
Location: North Carolina
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Postby boswellbaxter » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 10:39 pm

I much prefer real characters.
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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Postby Margaret » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 10:41 pm

What a fascinating question! I've never thought about this before. I do like reading about real people from history, provided the author has done a reasonably good job with the research, because I learn things I hadn't known before. On the other hand, I love reading about people in times and places where no particular individual has made it into the historical records - for example, right now, I'm reading Ruan by Bryher, which is set in sixth century western Britain. There are a few names from king lists from that period, but the names are really all we know about those people. And I like reading about the lives of common people in some of the more-documented centuries. As Meat Loves Salt was terrific (I've reviewed it at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/As-Meat-Loves-Salt.html), and that story could not have been told from the perspective of any of the aristocrats documented in historical records.
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Eyza
Scribbler
Location: Seattle, Washington
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Postby Eyza » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 10:56 pm

I generally prefer imagined characters that work in real situations, if it's historical fiction. Maybe I've just had bad experiences reading fictional biographies, but I generally don't find these terribly interesting, because especially with well-known ones like Elizabeth I, so much is "known" about that character, that there's not enough "tension" or surprise element in the story to interest me. :(
Anne G

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Eyza
Scribbler
Location: Seattle, Washington
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Postby Eyza » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 11:01 pm

I generally prefer imagined characters that work in real situations, if it's historical fiction. Maybe I've just had bad experiences reading fictional biographies, but I generally don't find these terribly interesting, because especially with well-known ones like Elizabeth I, so much is "known" about that character, that there's not enough "tension" or surprise element in the story to interest me. :(
Anne G


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