Say I am writing a (mostly) realistic fiction book. The entirety of said work is mostly what a person would expect from realistic fiction with the world being almost entirely similar to our own, politically and what-not. But then say I interjected a few minute details that are considered unhistorical, for example: one of the characters visit their relative who was a hoarder that was raised in the great depression, and they stumble upon a newspaper that had a headline detailing Germany bombing the eastern coast of the United States during the first Great War.

Would it still be considered realistic fiction if nothing else was out of the ordinary except that little footnote of a detail?

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    Unless you explain it some way, people may just assume the author does not know their history or that it was an error. I think you would need to explain it in some way. For example, the newspaper article was about a small fishing town that claimed to have been bombed, but the newspaper does not really believe it. Some witnesses were interviewed, but they could not show physical evidence. Or maybe imply that there was a cover up. Mar 14 '18 at 20:33
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    A story that includes Germany bombing the east coast of the United States sometime between 1914 and 1919 would be science fiction, IMHO. That not only didn't happen historically, it was not even possible at the time. Mar 15 '18 at 14:30

Everything in a story has to matter. If you write alternate history, the alternate has to matter to the story. If you put in a detail that is obviously and deliberately contrary to history (as opposed to an accidental anachronism, which you will find in many books if you look hard enough) then it is alternate history. And if it is alternate history in which the alternate history does not matter, it is just plain weird.


The definition of the whole genre "Alternate History" is that you are mostly trying to be as realistic as possible, except for one or more historical events. It's completely up to you what those details are and to what extent you exactly want to change reality. If you want a newspaper to talk about Germany attacking the United Stated then go ahead and do that - just be aware that your readers will likely have some knowledge about the real events and might pick up on these differences, which means that you should either talk about them in greater detail later in the book or treat them as a sort of "Easter-Egg", a little detail that some people might pick up, but that is irrelevant to the overall story. The reason for placing Easter-Eggs in your story would be to give the readers that look for them a few things to talk about - it should be a few things, not just one - and you should make it obvious that this is an Easter-Egg. Most of the time you wouldn't do something like this in a book.

You could of course just state that the newspaper article said that there was such an attack and later you explore how this specific newspaper was often accused of false or not-completely-true news. This has to fit in the story however.

All in all it's completely fine to change little details in this genre, but if you don't want to do something with it you should leave it out. Either it plays a role and is an intended difference, or it's explored to be at least not-completely-true or it's treated as a part of multiple little Easter-Eggs that you want your readers to find so that they may find out some hidden information for example - but you should not just put in a little difference, just for the sake of having a little difference in your book.


What is your purpose in wanting to do this?

If the story is 99% set in the real world, and then you throw in this one paragraph of alternate history, and then the story goes back to the real world and the alternate history is never mentioned again ... I don't see the point. The reader will either think you are very confused about history, or they will expect this incident to make a difference. They will expect it to have some relevance or purpose. Readers who are not interested in an alternate history story will be annoyed that you dragged it in, and readers who want to read an alternate history story will be annoyed that you dropped it.

There's nothing wrong with mixing genres. You can include a romance subplot in a science fiction story, or have a horror story set in the Old West. But there is something very, very wrong with dragging in another genre for one paragraph and then apparently forgetting that you did it.

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