100

One of the joys in fiction is learning new things. For many readers of historical fiction, learning new details -- even contrary to their own expectation -- is a lot of the fun. So you can definitely use these elements, and expect them to count in your favor. To make that work, you need to make it clear that your details are deliberate, not mistakes. Don't ...


88

Imagine her point of view, as a typical nurse. She has already met hundreds of patients over the course of her career who had inappropriate feelings for her. 99% of them held no temptation for her at all, and by now she's sick of it. Some were old, some were unattractive, some were mean when they thought they were being nice, some made sexual suggestions at ...


67

Research is vital if you want your story to succeed emotionally Imagine that you're writing a story about a horse race. Your protagonist's horse is in second place, just barely behind their arch-nemesis. Right as they approach the finish line, the protagonist's horse gathers itself for a mighty leap and propels itself into the air over the other horse to ...


41

Is it okay? Well, it's likely legal (if the person is long dead anyway, and probably even if they're alive). You can do it. You might even get it published. For a large number of readers, the answer is that, no, it's not okay. Though what percentage of that really depends on the details. Fictionalization of historic events is extremely common and ...


34

There is no problem at all with writing morally ambiguous characters, and it's surprisingly easy for readers to sympathise with them. Let us look at some examples: First, a modern example: A Song of Ice and Fire by G.R.R. Martin. There was a character in the first book of the series, who had all those honourable values, in particular he was averse to lying, ...


31

It might depend on the genre and style you are writing in, but from your description it seems you are mostly interested in more realistic historical fiction. If that's the case, there is nothing wrong with trying to be historically accurate. Knowingly putting in anachronistic elements just because you assume the readers expect it might get counterproductive, ...


30

The nurse is a nurturing character? Perhaps this reminds him of his mother or sister. This is a person with whom he can be physically and emotionally vulnerable, without any sexual connotations. Another layer to consider is that, with his life in constant peril, romance is really the very last thing on his mind. He needs friends and allies more than love.


29

Some events are far-off historical events. The most you risk if you write about them without doing the proper research is making a fool of yourself. Other events are still within living memory. Some of your readers might have lived the event. @SaraCosta says in the comment that not doing research is a sign that "the writer has very little respect for their ...


26

You have two problems here: Lots of good people dying, "on stage" - in front of the children Good people killing other good people The first is dealt with very well in The Hobbit, for example. Already behind [Thorin] among the goblin dead lay many men and many dwarves, and many a fair elf that should have lived yet long ages merrily in the wood. And as ...


25

Add an afterword or appendix. It's my favorite part of a book. Seriously. Share your fascination with history. Explain which parts of the story are made up, and which are based on reality. Add sources for both, facts and ideas. It makes a good story more memorable, and might give the reader a treasure trove of references for further reading. Examples: Janet ...


23

Generally, most readers won't care... and the ones who do are weird. "Going to the Bathroom" is only brought up for low brow humor or plot points (such as a detail of an escape). You can even draw attention to your omission by having a casual question tossed to the character ("Wait... how did you go to the bathroom?" met with "I'd ...


22

Getting your facts straight is one of the rules of literature. As with the other rules of literature, it is one thing to know the rule and know when to break it, but another thing to ignore the rule when it's needed. In the case of this rule, there is no substitute for knowing what the facts actually are. Only then can you justify presenting a different ...


22

Hot Water: If you are going down that rabbit hole, you need to be SUPER careful. Writing in a historical period pretty much implies you stay consistent with history, except for the most trivial of details. I agree with Zeiss Ikon (+1), that going into alternative history is your safest bet. Establish up-front (possibly on the first page) that this is NOT the ...


20

I assume you mean something along the lines of Napoleon winning at Waterloo, or the British not getting caught with their pants down at King's Mountain and Cow Pens? It's usually easier to alter your story to fit the actual historical events than to stray into the (very detail-oriented) field of Alternate History. Change historical events, and don't follow ...


19

In general, avoid writing about things you don't know You are right to have misgivings about writing on a topic you haven't researched. There are a lot of risks involved in doing this. You risk offending people by accident, you risk misrepresenting real people in your work and you risk being called a lazy writer for not doing your research. Know your topic ...


19

I can't remember which book series it was but it included a map at the start of the book of the entire continent where the story took place and at the start of each chapter another map that was zoomed in to province/state the chapter was taking place in. And at the end the same map again but this time with a dotted line showing the characters journey. ...


18

I think it's mostly a modern delusion that ethics today are dramatically different than they were in the past. Yes, ancient Persia routinely tortured political prisoners. So do modern China and North Korea and many Arab countries. Modern Americans pride themselves on equal rights for women. Yet the US has never had a female president, while many ancient ...


18

"Sadly, women in ancient China had no sense of self-respect." I'd like to disagree with this statement. When you say this, you are already thinking in modern terms. My area is European Middle Ages and at that time a woman had no power over her body. She belonged to her father, then to her husband. Does that mean she had no self-respect? Where does the ...


17

Creative non-fiction recounts factually-accurate narratives in a literary style. It reads like a story, but it is in fact real history. It will be severely criticised for containing factual inaccuracies, let alone fictional main characters. (wiki) Historical fiction, on the other hand, is fiction, set in some specific period in the past. The period and its ...


17

Changing history is slippery because it's a complex weave of causes and consequences, and even an expert might not know the full picture. I agree with Zeiss Ikon in their answer, the devil is in the details, and some readers will have vastly different opinions about what this or that change should entail. That's why my golden rule when fundamentally changing ...


15

This stinks! This is a slightly obscure question, and might be better answered someplace like the History SE or worldbuilding. It's more relevant if the character isn't from the period (like a time traveler), but the logistics of it won't be such a big deal for folks of the period. No one has felt the need to answer this question in books I've read unless ...


14

There's multiple pitfalls to consider here: The first is the Uncanny Valley concern you mention in the OP - actually being able to write in the style of the time period to a suitable level of accuracy. Depending upon how far back you go it's not going to be far off attempting to write in a foreign language like a native speaker! By no means is this ...


14

Just don't. You have a good ten thousand years of (semi) recorded history to choose from, in what is now hundreds of countries and multiple continents. There are many places and times you can pick that most people would know nothing about and you can get away with making stuff up. Don't pick an event that has deep meaning for a very large number of people ...


13

Just be accurate and write a GOOD STORY. If your story is dry and uninteresting, no amount of research will save you. People don't buy stories for their accuracy; they buy them for entertainment. That's why badly researched stories can still be extremely popular. The story is what counts for readers. However, that's no reason why you have to be inaccurate ...


13

Shakespeare did it. Richard III was not a homicidal maniac killing young princes. He was an able king. The movie Fatherland presents an alternate history where WWII never happened, Hitler is an able leader and JFK is an aging US President. It all works well because it had a purpose. History did not quite suit the needs of the story, so history changed. ...


13

Imagine the Nurse is a lesbian. In WW2 and in the military she wouldn't be "out", but it isn't like lesbians did not exist back then. Her fiancé is a ruse; I know single lesbians that still wear a wedding ring, an easy way to shut down male inquiries. I will also note, not all lesbians are butch, there are many degrees of femininity in lesbians; ...


12

If you don't want to do the research --and I sympathize with that --then you are not writing ABOUT a historical event, you are writing INSPIRED by a historical event. In that case, you and your readers would be best served by you presenting your story consistent with what it really is. So don't write about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, write about "The ...


12

Marium, As writers, we often find ourselves in the middle of someone else's pain, suffering or turmoil. It comes with the territory. But in any area of life — including writing — we never produce our best work when we're down in the depths of grief or despair. As a professional, you have to remain upbeat and at your best. But, as you know, detachment isn'...


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