Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday Threads

It's Thursday again, so time for another question. This week, we'd like to know:

What's more important to you--strict adherence to historical facts, or a good story? Are you willing to cut authors some slack with the facts if it improves the story?

Here's our responses:

Nanette: I think it depends. When it comes to well-known figures or events, major historical inaccuracies can ruin a book (or a movie) for me. However, I do enjoy reading books set in eras or settings that are less familiar to me, so ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

Marg: I am not a real stickler for absolute historical accuracy but having said that if you moved major events or married off characters to someone other than who they were actually married to as examples, I would definitely want to see an author note that explains how you changed it and why!

Julie: I agree with Marg, but I do quite like the concept of speculative historical fiction. Where authors could explore the what if factor.

What if Captain Cook had not been the explorer to raise the flag in Australia. The French explorer Parous had been in the area. What if he had stopped rather than sailing by thinking it was not possible to create a settlement. 

Ana: I also agree with Marg. I would rather have the true historical facts and if they are changed I want to know that the author did it on purpose (and not because of lack of research) and why.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I'm setting a higher priority to a good story. Though I'm only willing to ignore errors if they don't affect the storyline, or otherwise become too disturbing. I mean some errors are ok, but not if the book is full of them.

  2. I'm willing to go for the good story over absolutely correct facts. However, according to the historical survey I did, the number one thing that readers say detracts from their enjoyment of historical fiction is inaccuracies. I wonder whether readers become steeped in knowledge of a certain era because they love reading about that time period ... then of course, they know lots about that time period and can detect inaccuracies more readily.

    BTW Steven King's new book is all about rewriting history as he considers what might have happened had President Kennedy lived.

  3. I would rather the story be built around major facts that are accurate and maybe more lenient with the small things, because I do like to learn through my reading. I do like to know what truths have been manipulated at the end.

  4. If an author makes any major changes in history, it completely ruins the story for me so there is no either/or.

  5. I tend to agree that a major change is a problem because I find it distracts me from the story in any case. But it's a fair point that if you don't know the period and therefore don't notice the change, it can have no effect on your enjoyment at all!

  6. If there are inaccuracies it will ruin it for me, especially if it's major things. Rearranging of minor events to suit a story are okay, but it needs to be explained in the Authors notes - which I must say I read first, for this very reason.

  7. I'm willing to accept angles that are unique or speculative, up-front with me first! Ideally, let me know via the back cover that the novel is taking a different path. Then-give me an author's note that discusses why your "take" is atypical, and why you chose this route.

    I'm trying to think of a novel like this that I've enjoyed, and, frankly, I can't recall one. But I will say that, while I have enjoyed Carolly Erickson's nonfiction, I've given up on her bizarre hf. "The Last Wife of Henry VIII" was just too out there for me: never-happened plot twists that did not enhance the story or characterizations.

  8. It's always good to remember we are writing and reading fiction, not a historical textbook.It should be as accurate as possible, but I agree with Marg. I want the author's notes to explain any deliberate or known discrepencies. As a reader I always read the end notes and find they usually enhance my understanding of the story. I think readers are usually forgiving of small adjustments (I am). Now larger more in depth changes can carry us from the land of history over the border of fantasy if its overdone. In the end, it should be about trust and transperancy.