Historical Stories
For discussion of the posted stories and writing historical stories.
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dbz 77
How much historical research do you do when writing a historical story?


10/17/2006 #1
Look as long as you keep asking vage questions you're not going to et any good answers. All I can say is "as much as is needed" until you give me something more specific to alk about.
10/17/2006 #2
You do what you need to. It also depends if you want to be super accurate or want to miss a few detail here and there. However, I feel that one needs to research enough to understand and correctly state the basic facts of a society or else a historical is just a piece of crap.
10/18/2006 #3
I generally try not to fudge research...I mean, the point of a historical is that it's historical, right, as opposed to, "I'm gonna set this thing which is more 20th century than 17th in the 17th century just because it sounds cooler." I mean, the historical setting is just the background colour, the characters are the broadest strokes, but the details of the fictional fabric you're creating come from the little accurate things that you can throw in (where pertinent, obviously). Not only does it add colour to your writing, it also shows you up as a more adept writer.
10/18/2006 #4
dbz 77
You do what you need to. It also depends if you want to be super accurate or want to miss a few detail here and there. However, I feel that one needs to research enough to understand and correctly state the basic facts of a society or else a historical is just a piece of crap.

You mean like a story set in ancient Egypt where the Egyptians use gladii instead of khopeshes?


10/19/2006 #5
Gabriel El Jibaro
I think you should put emphasis on things like numbers, dates, notable people, fashion and location. Other than that, you don't need to research much else. You can write it anyway you want, a historical ficiton.
10/22/2006 #6
Lost in the Funhouse
I've tried my hand at writing a few historical fictions which have turned into stories no more than 300 words because I can't stand the guidlines I have to set for myself. I prefer to be loose and open with my topic with some basis around it to make it plausible but I do like to be free.

If I were to write a historical story, however, based on a certain event, I would do a lot of research for everything. There are things you can fake to whatever you want but it really depends if one is into details or no. I read a book, whichever one it was, by Philippa Gregory, either The Queen's Fool or The Other Boleyn Girl, is it said that Gregory made lists of detailed things to make her story as historically accurate as possible. She even made a chart that showed which dates the English monarchs were at which castle.

So, as I wandered off-topic, I don't research a lot because, though I adore historical fiction, I try a new twist on it so I don't have to be bound by, well, history. But that, of course, is just me.

10/22/2006 #7
I think you should put emphasis on things like numbers, dates, notable people, fashion and location. Other than that, you don't need to research much else. You can write it any way you want, a historical fiction.

I agree that you can write a historical fiction "any way you want," as long as you're being historically accurate about the thing?

With regards to dates, I don't actually feel that they're necessary. I mean, if you're writing about a French soldier at Waterloo, why mention that you're talking about 1815? A person in Hiroshima -- the entire world knows that that happened in 1945. If the character and place are evident, then there's no reason to bother emphasizing the date. Particularly bad when it's emphasised wrongly -- I remember reading a story once that had the battle of Waterloo happening very prominently in 1817, and I was like, well, hmm, there's a problem with this.

10/23/2006 #8
As long as you have a fairly decent idea of historical events, particularly in the country where your story is set, it's okay. Just check details as you go along if needs be (that's the way I do it anyway). And avoid making stupid mistakes like having an intro that reads 'It is 26 BC', or gross historical inaccuracies like (okay this is an exaggeration) the corporal didn't know how many soldiers the Germans had, so he checked his heat-sensitive Global Positioning System. Keep in mind where the story is set. For example, if it's 1970 and your character lives in Pakistan, they're not going to be concentrating very hard on the Vietnam War, but rather on the troubles in their own country. An American, on the other hand, might be aware of both occurrences, but, unless their background is Pakistani or Indian, they would more likely be interested in Vietnam. Also make sure you have an okay understand of the attitudes of the time towards things like male and female relationships in public (this also applies for various different culture fictions), animals, race relations (remember, for example, phrenology and racial studies were once considered proved scientific theories) ie. a duchess is unlikely to feel that much sympathy for the peasants of Medieval England, because the feudal system was viewed as keeping the universe intact. Remember what sort of diseases they suffered, what sort of conditions the people lived in. This is pretty much against what other people have said here, but there's no need to be too overt with littering dates and important historical figures throughout the story- unless it's in context. A German in the Third R*** is unlikely to know the name of every Haupsturmf├╝hrer or member of the government. For conversation, mentioning historical events is fine; mentioning interesting things happening, like the invention of this or that, is also good, but remember that you and your friends don't spend your whole time talking about the war in Iraq- you talk about other things too.

Woo. Long response. If I can think of anything else, I'll put that in too. To sum it up, keep everything in context and, in answer to your question, do as much research as is possible within your time restraints and attention span ;)

10/25/2006 #9
do as much research as is possible within your time restraints and attention span ;)

I grant you time is never on a writer's side (a mortal's side, perhaps?) but surely a person wouldn't set about writing a historical set in a time period that didn't interest them at least marginally. Maybe it's just a personal bias, but I never found research for a historical ever to become tedious.

(There was something wrong with the grammar in that last sentence but I can't for the life of me rephrase it to sound 'right'. English is a funny language.)

10/26/2006 #10
I generally either use stuff I already know or do a bit of reading on whatever it is I want to write about- mostly books or web-sites. I find that sometimes authors (published ones, too) get too carried away with dates and details that they bog the reader down with descriptions of things that they've researched. It makes the story more authentic, yes, but it sometimes comes off as an atttempt to show the reader how much you know.
10/28/2006 #11
Hmmmm...interesting. I actually started a topic similar to this on a myspace FP group. Well i think there should be some research involved if you're typing/writing and are curious about something or don't remember something. This is of course if you're familiar with the topic. If not then i don't advise writing on it 'cause you'll get bogged down in useless detail that will only bore the reader. I can't say how many books i've read where the authour mentions that the patronesses of Almacks turned away "the prince himself." While this is historically accurate, it is singularly irrelevant to the entire story and is a hackeneyed way to illustrate Almacks prestige and power. Saying the opposite of Almacks would be a gross error of the unforgivable sort, however, so, as far as i'm concerned, if you know what Almacks is, what it was for and that it existed in the 19th century then simply tell the reader that and avoid detailed descriptions of the food served there. In this case and in most others these bare facts are all that are necessary for you to write a story. If the stroy concerns a particular event in history then, of course, research is necessary. ^_^ Very long i know but i really can't help it.
10/30/2006 #12
I'm researching things on the way of life back in Ancient Roman times. I'm writing a story about the Christiann burnings the Roman dids.
12/13/2006 #13
A.J Evans
I think it is absolutely vital that if you are going to write historical pieces you know as much as you can about that era. If you are going to write about historical figures you should know about their lives, childhood, everything really. You would not write a piece on any other genre and not have a back ground knowledge of what that character was like, their family history, where they live, work etc. Even the landscape plays an important role and even more so in historical or fantasy pieces. Historical stories are no different from writing any other story, in fact they are possibly easier because you have a basic story line to follow and the figures are real people with motives and direction.

Good planning makes a good story. If you are unsure of the details it is ok to embellish a little - after all we write fiction, not academic books - but if your history is shoddy it reflects in the writing and there is nothing more irritating than reading something that is blatantly incorrect. That aside, it depends upon what you are writing. Some time periods are more well documented were as early history is a mind field of mostly guess work with the odd fact thrown in for good measure. In these instances following history is somewhat difficult and embellishments have to occur.

In many respects its a case of balancing fact and fiction in such a way that you remain as true as possible to the underlying history. There is no point in blatantly lying about details such as moving major battles to suit your timescale. This is simply irritating to anyone with a knowledge of that era.

The good thing for writers these days is that the internet offers a lot of information all at the touch of a button. However, be cautious in trusting certain sites, especially if your story is pre-1800. Most information prior to this period is rather poorly documented. The story I am currently undertaking is set in Anglo-saxon england and trust me when I tell you this period is impossible to research and somewhat frustrating. I tend to cross reference my research and if I come up with a lot of different answers I pick the one that suits my story and the most plausible one.

Hope that helps. Dont kill yourself researching but do enough to make it believable.

2/7/2007 #14
enough that if someone asks me i can rattle off historical facts like a machine. i mean, if i'm going to write in a certain era i want to be close to an expert on it; especially in regards to timelines, human rights, and style of dress/speech. all the important stuff ^^ though to avoid such research i usually make up an alternate universe in which i can avoid things i don't like about the era and still keep other stuff ...
3/9/2007 #15
Robespierre Cincinnati

It's easiest to pull Historical Fiction off if you know about the culture. I have a basic idea of most major civilizations and time periods, then for minor details like who was King of England in 1467 I just look them up.

8/1/2009 #16
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