Hot answers tagged

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 ...


54

The phrase "cultural appropriation" can make it seem that the sole issue is just who is using the culture. From my point of view, the deeper question how good a job they're doing at representing it. Have you captured anything authentic, or is your depiction just --as is so often the case --a shallow pastiche of preexisting images? Are you doing the ...


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, ...


28

Be consistent The most important thing is to keep your story consistent. A story which has the same rules throughout can be accepted even if it is not compatible with the real world. However, even a fantasy story will be rejected by the reader if the rules of what is possible in the fantasy world change without justification. Even within a given genre, the ...


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 ...


24

Terror, Cowardice, Selfishness and Greed. "Stupid" mistakes need to be understandable or the story is not satisfying. They can BE understandable if the stupidity is part of human nature: Somebody is overworked to exhaustion and makes the mistake. Somebody is engaging in a criminal exercise, and does something extremely short-sighted in order to ...


23

The norm is the average range. None of your examples are outside the norm, meaning they're all things people wouldn't think were unusual. You seem to be asking "do I have to write characters who are in the center of the average range?" The answer to that is "no." All of your examples are about age and age has never been a very exciting deviation, ...


21

I would go with characters have dead siblings; but that happens off-screen. Showing it on-screen, and in-period-realistic, might be off-putting itself. Everything you are talking about is a statistical distribution; averages, a bell-curve of sorts. Nothing says your character have to reside in the center of it. So child-deaths can happen primarily to ...


20

Realism means variety, because real life isn't all one thing To some degree, you've answered your own question: I want there still to be hope in the story after these two events happen If a little kid's parents die, show him sometimes forgetting to mourn and having fun instead. If petty nobles end up ruling their fiefs unsupervised, show some of them ...


18

Create a minor emergency that can be resolved only by two people working together. Perhaps the fix calls for repeated overlap every four hours between watches. Maybe each cooks for the other for those times.


18

Well first, let me say nothing you can do can stop people from accusing you of cultural appropriation because anyone can accuse you of anything if they want. However I can give you some tips on decreasing the chances. Mix things up: Don't just copy and paste one culture from our world into yours, but instead borrow elements from multiple cultures and ...


17

If you're doing essentially the same thing as 90% of your genre (flying people achieve great heights immediately, people with superpowers never have issues with getting fuel for those powers, someone can be knocked unconscious for hours but be okay) because the "realistic" details are not the purpose of your story, then I think you're fine. If anything, your ...


17

Take cues from historical source material You've clearly already put in some research. How did contemporary people address the loss when writing about their lives? (Hint: the answer varies, from stoicism and scarcely mentioning it, to hopeful talk of an afterlife and being reunited, to uninhibited grief.) If you're trying to give the flavor of a time ...


16

Your schedule doesn't make sense IRL. People WILL find ways to interact and keep each other company; we are social animals. They will talk, even if their conversations are by radio. They will share entertainment. They will do their work in each other's presence, on the bridge. People like company; even if one doesn't, the other one does. IRL, people often ...


15

Demographics is statistics. Statistics never defines individual cases. No single case can 'defy' statistics. Being beliveable is another thing though. By that we could mean 'too improbable'. But even then a single interaction doesn't say much. If you need the situation to be like this, go ahead and do it. You can even make a point of it. Say, if a character ...


14

Other answers cover what to do if you allow your characters to meet in person. If you don't want them to see each other in person, you could use nightly logs as a vehicle for the incipient relationship. Every shift should have some documentation about what happened. Real life spacecraft and naval vessels have logs for every watch. You can see an example of ...


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

The first scenario is perfectly reasonable. The young woman might be urged to wait as she is so young, but the heart wants what the heart wants. A cousin of mine recently married a woman nineteen years his junior after dating a few years. Another couple I know, the age difference is more extreme and they are likewise a perfect match. When I was twenty a ...


12

Sure! You'd be surprised how many great fictional characters were based on people the author met, people interesting enough we idiomatically call them "characters".(Well, maybe you wouldn't be surprised if you appreciate how writing benefits from reflecting human nature.) For example, Basil Fawlty was inspired by a real hotel manager encountered in holiday. ...


12

I would say there always is a way to make your plot slightly more logical than stretching the limits of human behaviour. Forcing your characters to make very obvious and foreseeable mistakes without being under pressure makes your story somewhat forced an unnatural, which isn't exactly a bad thing depending on what you are going for (for example, a highly ...


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 ...


10

I agree with Cloudchaser on this, but I think your questions stems from the broader problem: how do I know I'm doing something wrong, or that my plot is leaving loopholes. Well, there is no easy answer. If there was, there would be no plotholes in any story ever published (or written, for that matter). So, all you can do is do what we all try to: Consider ...


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 ...


10

First, thank you for asking this question. All too often, I encounter things in the media where I desperately wish people had asked questions like this beforehand. It can be especially painful in the kids' sector (which has made less progress in the last 30 years since I was a child than I might have hoped). With all that said, this is a real genuine ...


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