Author Topic: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...  (Read 321 times)

JRTomlin

In my historical notes, I am trying to think of a polite way of saying "This novel was a bitch to research." lol
 

Maggie Ann

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2019, 09:37:57 AM »
This novel was a dog's dinner to research.

           
 

notthatamanda

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2019, 09:54:52 AM »
"I was so excited to get started on this project but quickly found my research stymied by..."

Don't want to derail a second thread in a day, but I'm reading my first book on post War America for research on my next book and loving it.
 

Maggie Ann

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2019, 10:01:02 AM »
"I was so excited to get started on this project but quickly found my research stymied by..."

Don't want to derail a second thread in a day, but I'm reading my first book on post War America for research on my next book and loving it.

Which war? I always think of WWII because I'm a war baby.

           
 

notthatamanda

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2019, 10:33:43 AM »
Yes World War II.  It's mostly about the GI Bill.  Each chapter tells a soldier's story and how they went to college on the GI Bill. It also touches on the economic climate after the first World War, how the GI Bill was planned to avoid the same problems, how the loan guarantee spawned the suburban sprawl.  It's interesting and the individuals stories are very compelling.
 

JRTomlin

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2019, 10:38:42 AM »
This novel was a dog's dinner to research.
:icon_rofl:

"I was so excited to get started on this project but quickly found my research stymied by..."

Don't want to derail a second thread in a day, but I'm reading my first book on post War America for research on my next book and loving it.
I'm happy to hear about someone who is finding research easy going. It's not much that I didn't love it as that there are huge holes in the information and some historians have filled in the holes with very questionable speculation. So I have to figure out where I think they've gone wrong and justify that and probably update Wikipedia so readers don't tell me I'm wrong when they try to fact check.

I'm always happy to have readers fact check my novels because they probably learn something from doing it, but I have to be sure that the information I'm using from fairly difficult to find sources is available. Even the main character's date of birth or who his mother was are debatable and both are important to the storyline.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2019, 10:41:12 AM by JRTomlin »
 

notthatamanda

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2019, 10:48:16 AM »
Well you are going back a lot more years than I am.  I admire your tenacity.  I wouldn't take on a project of that magnitude.

ETA - The book I'm reading was written in 2006 and so far for all the chapters the author interviewed the servicemen and their spouses.  Definitely not an option in your case.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2019, 10:51:15 AM by notthatamanda »
 

JRTomlin

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2019, 12:46:57 PM »
In a way, it is because John Barbour based The Brus on the stories he was told by people who were there. On occasion, he even tells who gave him the information. Considering that it was written in 1370 it is quite a remarkable work. What is frustrating is when he says, "I'm not going to write about that because everyone knows that story." and of course the story has long since been lost. And there are other things we really would like to know that he didn't consider important. But yes, going back some 700 years does make research a bit more challenging.

 

LilyBLily

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2019, 02:36:43 AM »
What I learned while researching my only (unfinished) historical fiction is that historians who read original sources pick and choose what they present in their own books and they synthesize to create a coherent story. The problem is, they often do their picking and choosing to support their personal theories. Sometimes I could do without their theories. Synthesizing is quite the art, nevertheless.
 

DrewMcGunn

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2019, 03:07:06 AM »
What I learned while researching my only (unfinished) historical fiction is that historians who read original sources pick and choose what they present in their own books and they synthesize to create a coherent story. The problem is, they often do their picking and choosing to support their personal theories. Sometimes I could do without their theories. Synthesizing is quite the art, nevertheless.

I think that's a valid point. In my own series, the amount of stuff I left on the "cutting room floor" really did outweigh the stuff I incorporated - and by a wide margin. Sometimes those arcane points make for some fine story telling, especially if one can pull it off. Of course, I don't write straight historical fiction, either, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

It's probably controversial, but my view of historical fiction tends to be that the further one goes back in history the greater license you should be allowed to fill in the blanks, where those blanks are unknown.


Drew McGunn
 

spin52

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2019, 03:10:11 AM »
In my historical notes, I am trying to think of a polite way of saying "This novel was a bitch to research." lol
"Difficult but rewarding"? At least I assume it was rewarding in the end. I'm writing books set in the Victorian era, and I have learned a lot about the history of the town where they're set that I never would have known otherwise.
Notthatamanda -- a good friend of mine, now 93, went to college on the GI bill. He never could have afforded it otherwise, and went on to become an award-winning journalist.
     

Traditional mysteries with a dash of humor -- no cats, no cupcakes.
 

JRTomlin

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2019, 03:38:43 AM »
What I learned while researching my only (unfinished) historical fiction is that historians who read original sources pick and choose what they present in their own books and they synthesize to create a coherent story. The problem is, they often do their picking and choosing to support their personal theories. Sometimes I could do without their theories. Synthesizing is quite the art, nevertheless.

I think that's a valid point. In my own series, the amount of stuff I left on the "cutting room floor" really did outweigh the stuff I incorporated - and by a wide margin. Sometimes those arcane points make for some fine story telling, especially if one can pull it off. Of course, I don't write straight historical fiction, either, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

It's probably controversial, but my view of historical fiction tends to be that the further one goes back in history the greater license you should be allowed to fill in the blanks, where those blanks are unknown.
Of course you can fill in the blanks that are unknown as long as it fits with what is known. That really isn't controversial. I am not sure what you mean by 'greater license' though. When I fill in blanks, I am particular about making it plausible and fit with the known facts. Of course, 'known facts' are not always easy to disentangle. Even original sources can vary considerably about what they think happened.

I do use original sources much more than historians because you are right that they interpret those to fit their own theory or out of laziness, just repeating what was said by previous historians without bothering to check the original source. Fortunately, it is quite possible to buy copies of many of the original sources of the period I write about. It would be a tad more difficult if I had to travel to Scotland every time I wanted to check a source.

ETA: I love doing the research and reading the sources or else I wouldn't write historical fiction. Even so, there are times when it definitely gets frustrating.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2019, 03:42:18 AM by JRTomlin »
 

Hopscotch

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2019, 10:28:44 AM »
ETA: I love doing the research and reading the sources or else I wouldn't write historical fiction. Even so, there are times when it definitely gets frustrating.

I write historical Westerns and share your frustration / enthusiasm for the research.  Eons ago, an old-line pro at historicals told me that you don't need more history in a genre historical than you'd find in a 1950s Classics Illustrated comic book.  That's enough for verisimilitude, and veri-whatever is all you need.  When I'm really frustrated, I think about that.  Then I say, Naw, and go back to primary sources.     
 

Maggie Ann

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2019, 11:21:22 AM »
ETA: I love doing the research and reading the sources or else I wouldn't write historical fiction. Even so, there are times when it definitely gets frustrating.

I write historical Westerns and share your frustration / enthusiasm for the research.  Eons ago, an old-line pro at historicals told me that you don't need more history in a genre historical than you'd find in a 1950s Classics Illustrated comic book.  That's enough for verisimilitude, and veri-whatever is all you need.  When I'm really frustrated, I think about that.  Then I say, Naw, and go back to primary sources.   

I have to put as much into my historicals as I would want if I were the reader rather than the author. That means a lot of fact checking.
           
 

JRTomlin

Re: Probably only relevant to people who write Historical Fiction but...
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2019, 01:09:15 PM »
ETA: I love doing the research and reading the sources or else I wouldn't write historical fiction. Even so, there are times when it definitely gets frustrating.

I write historical Westerns and share your frustration / enthusiasm for the research.  Eons ago, an old-line pro at historicals told me that you don't need more history in a genre historical than you'd find in a 1950s Classics Illustrated comic book.  That's enough for verisimilitude, and veri-whatever is all you need.  When I'm really frustrated, I think about that.  Then I say, Naw, and go back to primary sources.   
There was a time eons ago when historical fiction authors could get away with that. Now, as I'm sure you know, many fans fact check as they read and write reviews if they think you've gotten it wrong, although I hope even eons ago I would have had more respect than that for my readers.
 
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