Ask any reader the question:
“How important is historical accuracy in a novel?”
And, for the most part, you will get the answer of “very”.
Of course, that’s the answer you should receive. Why even write historical novels if you aren’t going to stick to historical facts?
While there are some who believe that authors aren’t teachers and that it’s not our job to educate readers on events or time periods, there are far many more that would still argue that isn’t the point of writing and reading historical novels are to travel back in time? How could you do that if you weren’t accurate in your details?
With all of this said, I know authors can’t be 100% accurate all the time. But, I also believe that we should try to be mindful of details in our writing.
Word of caution when choosing to fiddle with the 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.
Don’t believe me? How Dare You be Historical ~ READ MORE
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 descendants who will take offense to how their ancestors are portrayed.
Be sure to check out the other parts of this series:
Elements to Historical Fiction and Historical Romance
Rules for Historical Fiction and Historical Romance