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hard fiction or soft fiction?

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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LCW
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Post by LCW » Fri October 10th, 2008, 6:11 am

[quote=""keny from prague""]Wow! Angry much? Im sorry this offended you so egrigiously. it certainly wasnt my intent. i was only quoting someone elses work.

[/quote]

I wasn't angry or offended and certainly didn't mean for you to take my comment that way. And I did realize you were quoting someone else which was what I was giving my opinion on. Having a background in academia I see so many forms of intellectual snobbery that I have little patience for it when it comes to my pleasure reading. I want to read to get away from it all and not have to stress about whether or not I am being intellectually stimulated by the novel I'm reading at the moment. It just so happens that I do learn a lot from HF since my entire post grade school History education can be described with the letters 101 and 102, lol, but "learning" is not my primary goal!

Welcome to the forum, BTW. You'll find we're actually very nice here and I hope you stick around! :)
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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri October 10th, 2008, 11:49 am

[quote=""JMJacobsen""]After reading through the thread that Amanda provided, I have to agree...it's just a substitution of words: real characters for "hard" hf and imaginary characters for "soft" hf. I'm not sure if the original author Keny quoted was being condescending or not. But I would think that he/she is at least partially correct, in that I would think that writing a hf novel from the pov of an actual historical character would be more difficult to pull off. But I'm certainly not an author, so it's just a guess on my part.

Regardless of which is more difficult to write, or which a reader prefers, bottom line seems to be that good writing exists in both forms and certainly not-so-good writing does as well. I think we could all name examples of each.

My personal preference is that it be well researched and well written. I don't seem to prefer any particular pov. I did recently read an Anne Boleyn book (imagine that, I hear they're hard to find these days :rolleyes :) that was written from Anne's pov and I just couldn't buy into what the author was trying to tell me about Anne's thoughts and motivation.

On a lighter note, as I am typing this the Snicker's commercial with all the historical figures riding along in the car came on....the one where Henry VIII is sitting in the front seat and starts singing "Greensleeves". Now THAT'S funny. :D [/quote]


i guess i shouldve used the words imaginary or real characters as opposed to "hard" and "soft". I do agree that writing in the style of a real person seems more challenging, especially as we bmay have pre-conceived notions of what that characters personality is like, but I dont think one is "better". I was just curious to see if one type was prefered over the other.

sorry dont know the ad youre describing, though.

good reading to you

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri October 10th, 2008, 11:56 am

[quote=""1lila1""]I wasn't angry or offended and certainly didn't mean for you to take my comment that way. And I did realize you were quoting someone else which was what I was giving my opinion on. Having a background in academia I see so many forms of intellectual snobbery that I have little patience for it when it comes to my pleasure reading. I want to read to get away from it all and not have to stress about whether or not I am being intellectually stimulated by the novel I'm reading at the moment. It just so happens that I do learn a lot from HF since my entire post grade school History education can be described with the letters 101 and 102, lol, but "learning" is not my primary goal!

Welcome to the forum, BTW. You'll find we're actually very nice here and I hope you stick around! :) [/quote]

ok, sorry i thought you were not noticing my question,as to whether you prefer imaginary or real characters. as i said, i enjoy both, i just wanted to see if anyone had a preference.

I definitly read HF for pleasure but also to learn. I love learning new things from well written HF and i find it much more interesting than coming from a Non-fiction book.

i have noticed that many books i like are focused on a historical personage but told through the eyes of a fictional or obscure character close to that person. in that way we are close to the personage, see their actions but are not privy to their thoughts. this to me is a very effective method for covering a historical character.

anyhoo, sorry for the misunderstanding

good reading to you

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Tanzanite
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Post by Tanzanite » Fri October 10th, 2008, 2:14 pm

I am drawn more to books about real historical characters although I don't mind fictional characters thrown in or even a fictional narrator.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Fri October 10th, 2008, 3:23 pm

[quote=""Divia""]A damn good story is a damn good story.

Hard or soft real or made up characters isnt what gets me to read the story. Does the plot sound interesting and can the author write. If the story is good it doesnt matter.[/quote]

Ditto. I'm not always in the mood for say War and Peace I just want a good story to keep me entertained and hopefully a history lesson at the same time. There was a similar thread over at Amazon on this topic.

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Leyland
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Post by Leyland » Fri October 10th, 2008, 4:39 pm

[quote=""keny from prague""] "You also need a good understanding of human types, an imaginative appreciation of people who may be quite unlike yourself. This combination of diligence and insight is not often found among fiction writers, who tend if anything to be more lazy and self-obsessed than the human average. “Soft” historical fiction, on the other hand, can be tackled by anybody, including the kind of novelist whose central characters are really nothing more than self-impersonations."[/quote]


I had a real 'ouch' moment when I read this bit of the quote that Keny provided in the OP. I've never thought of fiction writers as lazy and self-obsessed at all, nor did I think that soft characters were merely self-impersonations. And fiction writers lack diligence and insight? Please!

What do y'all think? Maybe the author of the critique was considering some of the 'fluffier' romantic HF here?

I can't say I'd give much credence to the rest of the critique based on these comments. Perhaps you could provide a link to the entire article, Keny? If it causes thread to go too off topic, then let's skip it.
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Post by Calgal » Fri October 10th, 2008, 5:47 pm

I think it strange to assume a writer can be authentic in exploring the inner life of a real person who lived long ago. I Claudius is certainly a good read, but I doubt there is much authentic about it. The writer of the article has not really thought this through.

No matter how much research a person does, getting at the truth of someone else's inner life is difficult. All we have to work with are the observations of contemporaries, journals, and letters plus a great deal of artifacts and a few sociological studies. Written accounts are skewed by self-interest. The accuracy of the details of a closely studied period give a sense of validity to any such study, but it really comes down to being fiction cloaked in a rigorous chronology and convincing details. Graves's portrait of Claudius convinces not because it is true but because the world around the man convinces and because the character resonates with his readers. We readers may like to think we know such characters better, but it is an illusion.

Like those who have responded above, I think it comes down to good telling of a believable story with lots of corroborative detail. Writers who invent characters may have done just as much research or they may not, but whatever characters they create have to be as believable as if they had truly lived during the period written about.

Dealing with my own story, I have chosen not to write two well-beloved myths about my famous characters. Does this mean I haven't done my homework? Quite the contrary. But I don't belabor or even explain the debunking because I am writing a story, not a scholarly essay. The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the folks I am writing about thought so differently about the world they inhabited that I have only a small grasp on how their minds worked. It would be imposssible to the purposes of good story telling for me to recreate what I do understand and keep modern readers sympathetic.

The human psyche does not change, but the way it plays out depends on the customs and value systems of the world it inhabits. Writers use a kind of shorthand, applying present day understanding to occupants of a different time, an act of imagination which creates a convincing fiction.

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nona
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Post by nona » Fri October 10th, 2008, 6:39 pm

[quote=""Divia""]A damn good story is a damn good story.

Hard or soft real or made up characters isnt what gets me to read the story. Does the plot sound interesting and can the author write. If the story is good it doesnt matter.[/quote]


I agree a good story is what it is.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri October 10th, 2008, 7:43 pm

[quote=""Leyland""]I had a real 'ouch' moment when I read this bit of the quote that Keny provided in the OP. I've never thought of fiction writers as lazy and self-obsessed at all, nor did I think that soft characters were merely self-impersonations. And fiction writers lack diligence and insight? Please!

What do y'all think? Maybe the author of the critique was considering some of the 'fluffier' romantic HF here?

I can't say I'd give much credence to the rest of the critique based on these comments. Perhaps you could provide a link to the entire article, Keny? If it causes thread to go too off topic, then let's skip it.[/quote]

sure heres the article. i think the author was refering to the "bodice-rippers". but i dont want to make any assumptions on his part.

http://www.olimu.com/Journalism/Texts/C ... Duggan.htm

it seems that second paragraph was quite distracting and took away from my original question, readers preferences.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Fri October 10th, 2008, 9:54 pm

Keny, thanks for posting the link to the article. It's a fine tribute to Alfred Duggan, whose research was top-notch, and who deserves all the praise lavished on him. However, I have to object to the author's dismissive tone about historical fiction in general. Yes, there is a thriving subgenre of bodice-ripper romance novels, many of whose authors do not (or did not) bother to research the periods very well. But there were and are many, many serious historical novels (not just Duggan's) which focus on actual historical people, fictional people in a well-researched historical setting, or both in the same novel. It's possible the author of the article was reacting to an environment in which people sneered at historical fiction, in which case he may have felt he had to take the tone he did to get people to pay attention to what he was saying about Duggan's work.

Frankly, though, even in the bodice-ripper subgenre, I would never accuse any author published by a reputable publisher of being lazy. Lazy writers do not attract publishers. I might even argue that writing a good historical novel requires far more diligence, skill and experience than writing a good nonfiction history book, because the history in the novel needs to be sound, and the story woven out of the history needs to be enlightening, plausible and, most of all, entertaining. Historians are not required to take us inside the minds and hearts of the people they write about; novelists are.

One of the best historical novels I've read all year was extraordinarily well researched and well written, and the characters were almost all fictional (Oliver Cromwell makes a very brief appearance). I've reviewed Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/As-Mea ... -Salt.html. I knew a little bit about the English Civil War period, but not much, and this novel gave me a much deeper understanding of what was going on then. If history and historical novels limited themselves to exploring people whose names have come down in history, we would not understand much about historical people other than the aristocracy. I would argue that it's quite important to understand what the lives of the common people were like.

Finally, I love a good controversy - Keny, thanks for starting this thread! Historical novels should excite our passions.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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