Writing Historical Novels, Part Seven: Rules – Fact vs Fiction #historicalromance #historical #writing #amwriting

Ask any reader or Google the question:

“How important is historical accuracy in a novel?”

and for the most part you will get the answer of “very”.

It’s true that there are some who believe that authors aren’t teachers. That it’s not our job to educate readers on events or time periods. However, you have to still argue that with why even write historical novels if you are going to take liberties with fact? Isn’t that the point of writing (and reading) historical novels? To travel back in time? Of course, with this I know that authors can’t be 100% accurate all the time. But, I do think that we should try to be mindful of our writing.

Word of caution when choosing to fiddle with historical face. While Hollywood can get away with messing up facts in order to create good fiction, writers and authors have to tread a little bit more carefully when blurring the lines. Movies like Braveheart are praised (even if mocked for its historical inaccuracies), but had it been a novel? That author would have probably been strung up by his/her toes.

Mess with history as a director? Brilliant!
Mess with history as a writer/author? Grab the pitchforks!

Sure you can mess with some details when creating your fiction; however, you have to keep it within reason. For example, changing the dates of a war? Okay. Changing who won the war? Yikes. No, just no. *Of course, this rule doesn’t apply if you are writing an alternate historical novel.

Depending on the era of your novel, you should also be mindful of bringing in real-life people. Messing around with characteristics and behaviors can be tricky if there are living relatives and descendents who will take offense to how their ancestors are portrayed.

Be sure to check out the other parts of this series:

What is the difference?

Elements to Historical Fiction and Historical Romance

Rules for Historical Fiction and Historical Romance


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8 Comments on “Writing Historical Novels, Part Seven: Rules – Fact vs Fiction #historicalromance #historical #writing #amwriting

  1. I’m really loving this series! Even though I already do a ton of research, I’m finding little niblets I didn’t think of. Thanks for all this!

  2. I know what you mean. I loved the TV show Reign about Mary Queen of Scots, but they changed so much of her factual story, that I found myself having to look it up to decipher which was true and which was false. I wanted to know the truth, but I also loved the show the way they wrote it (except for one huge incident in Season 2 that I would NOT have written into the story if I were their writer). They also used modern music kind of like they did in the movie A Knight’s Tale, which was also entertaining.

    My WIP takes place in the 1950’s and 60’s, and it’s about a character who was semi-famous. He is fictional, so anyone who might think I used a real person from the past and looks him up will not find him.

    • I remember a TV show about the Klondike Gold Rush came out around the time I published In the Land of Gold. It was not accurate. I screamed at the TV. LOL. It’s not fun when you have to research it. Plus, think about all the people who don’t actually look into it. They just believe it. GAH!

      • So true about people who just believe it. There are many who are like that, even with what they’re being told today. 😉

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