Sunday, July 5, 2009

Let's Have a Look at Some History!

Today's historical fiction writers are lucky: they have a lot of sources for historical data, from the Internet to the library; and a lot of the historical information that they need is within reach. But are today’s historical fiction books as accurate as they are engaging?

Your book review this time around is going to help you be more critical of how historical research is employed to move a story and support it. It should also teach you to be more critical of what you read. The first thing that you need to do is to pick a book of historical fiction. You can find such books in your local bookstore, library, or even your own bookshelf.

Read the book and write a review of it; make it a brief review that concentrates on the story and plot. When you are done, do some quick research on the historical background of the book. The book’s author may provide some useful resources for you to check out, but you should go beyond the list and look for your own sources. You can go to websites, get more books at the library and bookstore, or even interview an expert in history.

How close was the book to history? Did the historical research enrich the story or make for a thin plot? Were there inaccurate elements that the author introduced that made the plot better, at the behest of a story that might have been closer to the truth? As you compare the historical accounts with the book, look at your review. Is there anything that you want to change?

Historical accuracy is of paramount importance in writing historical fiction, but there are poorly-defined boundaries between writing a history book and writing a novel; and taking artistic license and wrecking historical accounts altogether. Achieving a balance is what historical fiction writers constantly strive to do excellently.

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