99

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 ...


65

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 ...


39

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: ...


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 ...


19

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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


14

"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 ...


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 ...


13

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 ...


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; gay terms ...


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 ...


11

This is a good case for those little out-of-character sideline blurbs at the top of each new chapter (don't know the english word - often printed in italics and blatantly not from the perspective of the main story). For example: Chapter 5 - The Big Feast The personal table fork was most likely invented in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, where ...


11

...usage has caused modern speakers (I believe) to see 'thou' as more formal than 'you'. I do not think so. It is not more formal, if anything, it is archaic, or literary, or both, but you definitely should not switch the actual single/plural meaning of the words, that would be very confusing. I suggest to use ye for the plural of thou to equalize the ...


10

Have your narrator digress Describe workers building a house in ancient Rome, tie it into the story later, to let it look like a Checkov's gun, then put in some historical facts integrating them into the narrative. Talk about forks, "which would later disappear until the late renaissance". Annotate your book When writing about something you know to be ...


10

It's not "history" but rather "geography" that determines whether you should use kilometers or miles. If your characters are German or Russian, use kilometers, because that's what they use, even today. (Depending on the time, e.g. Tolstoy in the 19th century, a Russian might use "versts", which are just a bit more than a kilometer.) On the other hand, if ...


10

Your proofreader felt disturbed because there may be some inconsistencies in your story. I'll point my finger against the fact that you changed some country names. This - per se - is not a problem, but it does depend on a lot of different factors. Let's review. In an alternate-history story, it's totally legitimate changing some details in a way that suit ...


10

The first thing to remember is that realism is just a style. If historical accuracy is hurting your story, let it go. Even historical fiction isn't "history." In particular, it can be enough to hint at alien value systems without wallowing in them --enough to give the flavor of the times, but not enough to make the whole thing distasteful. To be blunt, ...


10

If you want to write HISTORICAL fiction. The history is a prerequisite. I absolutely agree with all of the comments about causing offense and being just respectful (especially given the magnitude and the cultural/ Historical/ emotional significance of the Holocaust). Additionally, from a purely writing perspective, you need to truly understand a place and ...


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