Do you write Historical Fiction? Writing historically accurate fiction starts with RESEARCH.
Well, duh! I know that!
What most writers forget is that they take for granted a great many aspects which can lend more credence to their works, as well as a better experience of the story they want to put forward to readers. Additionally, if you want to be considered historically accurate, you must behave as a historian–do you due diligence. Can it always be done? Some things might slip past you. No human is perfect. Try your best. This series is going to help by presenting articles of interest from around the internet and get you started on the research necessary to complete an amazing manuscript.
I know what you’re thinking! But, magazines are written by writers and they know what they’re talking about. They wouldn’t be published otherwise. That’s like saying that The National Enquirer, a known tabloid, is always right and has the most up to date information about people and things. Tabloids are pretty much just creative writing. The best ones use a smidge of truth, but you’ll never know what that smidge is. They’re notorious for doctoring photos and making things up. The same is virtually true of all the popular magazines out there. I know we’d like to think that they’ve got our best interest in mind with what they’re publishing, but they don’t. Magazines are in the business of selling copies. They need to be interesting. So, they often reach out for the sensational.
Of course, this doesn’t always mean that they’re writing things that are untrue. The most sinister of lies is one, as I mentioned above, that has a modicum of truth to it. Like Film and documentary, the reader has to be aware of the bias inherent in the article, magazine, publisher, source and author. That’s a lot of vetting to examine.
But, I know that many researchers use magazines to support their evidence. That’s true! They do use some periodicals, newspapers, journals and magazines to do research. The difference is, the experienced researcher will examine the article, weigh it against other findings, determine if the work is peer-reviewed and a number of other vetting steps. Doing research, sounds hard, but it really does become second nature once you’ve been around the block a time or two. Like with anything, you’ll soon realize what is trustworthy and what is suspect.
Don’t forget, a journal’s integrity changes over time. For instance, National Geographic was just purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The magazine has been in financial decline and sold out to save itself. Speculation has rightly arisen that the magazine will no longer be a bastion of trustworthy work. Murdoch is known for providing material that disregards research and truth, and doesn’t value research. This is truly sad, but many periodicals go through this change. So, a researcher must be aware of the changes, because they affect the research one is doing.
Remember, you’re writing historical fiction to enrich the lives of others, perhaps provide a perspective not thought of and to respect historical fact. Research and accuracy really does matter.
Please refer to the following works regarding the use of such material as periodicals:
- Appleby, Joyce, Lynn Hunt, and Jacob Margaret. Telling the Truth about History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994.
- Benjamin, Jules R., A Student’s Guide To History, 11th ed. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2010).
- MacMillan, Margaret, Dangerous Games: Uses and Abuses of History. New York: Modern Library, 2009.
- May, Lary. The Big Tomorrow: Hollywood and the Politics of the American Way. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Have a topic you’d like discussed on writing historical fiction? Leave me a message and I will do my best to get to it.