Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More on historically real v. historically fictional

The last few months I haven't been blogging as much. That's partly because I've been writing more. At the same time, I've also been more on the alert for more "medieval" themed material, as opposd to "Neandertal" themed material(I believe in balance, you know, and my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals naturally has bNoth). But in view o a previous post on writer's preferences re "historical characters only" v. "fictional characters in historical situations", Nan Hawthorne has a really good post about this. Well, it's not precisely about the "fictional" v. the "historical", but she does make a very good argument as to why she prefers mostly "fictional" situations. If, as she points out, you write a novel about Richard III, and it's sympathetic to him, then the "Tudor lover" crowd will denounce it with vim and vigor. For the record, I have no particular interest in rehabilitating or not rehabilitating the reputationof Richard III, but yes, I've encountered some members of the "Tudor lover" crowd. If, however, a "Tudor lover" writes a novel about Richard III, and makes him as awful as can be, then the "Richcard sympathizers" will be up in arms. That has happened, too. As Ms. Hawthorn points out, the would-be historical writer can avoid all these pitfalls by not making their main characters historical figures. This may make the writing harder in some ways(you have to invent more, even in times where there were a lot of well-known figures and events), but you have the freedom to imagine a character acting and living in those times. The counter-argument for some people is, though, that if you take a historical character in historical time, you can then "plot around" the history and what is known of that person. Which takes some types of burdens off the novelist, but imposes others, and while a goo writer can get around this, many writers, in my opinion, don't do all that well at fictional eiographies, which is what these kiinds of works often are.

However, I am not making any judgment here. I have my preferences, obviously, which are equally obviously similar to those of Nan Hawthorne. But then, I read all kinds of stuff, fiction, nonfiction, biographies of various kinds. So who knows? I look forward to finding a really engaging historical novel about some very real person. Heck, somebody out there might surprise me!
Anne G

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