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

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:

What is the difference?

Elements to Historical Fiction and Historical Romance

Rules for Historical Fiction and Historical Romance

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

      1. I just published my third. First was set in 1940, second was Edwardian, and the most recent is late Edwardian. I’m working on one now that is a Tudor romance set in Wales.

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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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