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The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction - James Alexander Thorn

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The Czar
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The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction - James Alexander Thorn

Post by The Czar » Fri March 2nd, 2012, 1:42 am

Anybody read this?

http://www.amazon.com/Craft-Writing-His ... 189&sr=8-3

I thought about checking it out.
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
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Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
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Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri March 2nd, 2012, 3:56 am

I have it on my shelf of writing books. But it's Thom, not Thorn.

Every writing book has its own emphasis, and Thom (Who has written two doorstoppers that I like, and one that I mean to read) is no exception. His axe to grind is historical accuracy. He has chapter after chapter about ways to achieve it and work it into your book, all somewhat useful.

The caveat I always felt as I was reading was that so many writers do all this research, and then forget that they aren't writing a history book, but a work intended to entertain. And the latter is harder than the former.

So my comment is, read it, but take it with a grain of salt. In the end, your readers will finish only if you are amusing, no matter how accurate you may be.

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Shield-of-Dardania
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Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Fri March 2nd, 2012, 8:21 am

Exactly. I don't see much point in getting yourself so worked up about someone's so called lack of historical accuracy. Me, if I've bought a book, I'd just take anything in it in my stride, rather than dump it into the bin or something like that, just because I come across something I don't like.

I mean, if you reckon that you're smarter than the guy who wrote it, fine. So what? Big deal? :cool:

I think, Rosemary Sutcliffe put it just so succinctly in her interview with Raymond Thompson. This is what she said:

RT: Do you ever find that sometimes the need to preserve historical plausibility and to follow known facts gets in the way of telling a good story?

RS: Yes, but since I am a writer, not an historian, I will sacrifice historical accuracy. I really very seldom have to do it, and then it is only a matter of perhaps reversing the order of two events, or something like that. But if it does come to the crunch, I will choose a good story over absolute historical accuracy.

Historical accuracy? Naaahh. That's just fiction.
Last edited by Shield-of-Dardania on Fri March 2nd, 2012, 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Fri March 2nd, 2012, 11:31 am

I say, have you cake and eat it - choose a period that is little-known but enough known to form a reasoned hypothetical reconstruction of it, and that you are free to fit to your storyline. One reason I chose late Anquity. Who knows if Clovis challenged Syagrius face-to-face? He might have done. Did Syagrius have two residual legions in his polyglot army? Why not?

It means a bit of hard work checking primary sources (bless you, Procopius!) and putting the picture together for yourself, but once it's done, nobody can contradict you (except perhaps some obscure Oxford Don whose theories will be outmoded in ten years time anyway).
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

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The Czar
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Post by The Czar » Fri March 2nd, 2012, 11:13 pm

[quote=""MLE""]I have it on my shelf of writing books. But it's Thom, not Thorn.
be.[/quote]

Oops. Man, my eyes are getting terrible.
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
_______________________________________________
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Thu March 8th, 2012, 11:51 pm

Not at all surprisingly perhaps, given our similar subjects, I agree with Justin here. I also agree that accuracy is perhaps not worth getting *too* obsessed with in what is, after all, historical fiction.

I call the sticklers "the guitarist at the back of the bar" (the person, not on stage, sneering how much better a performance they would be giving ... you know - if they were *on stage*), and I consciously refuse to write for them.
"To be the queen, she agreed to be the widow!"

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The pre-modern world was willing to attribute charisma to women well before it was willing to attribute sustained rationality to them.
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