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Research vs. making it all up

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  • Nan Hawthorne
    A friend sent this link below with this comment: There s an amusing article by Lynne Truss (best known as the author of _Eats, Shoots and Leaves_) about the
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 12, 2007
      A friend sent this link below with this comment:

      "There's an amusing article by Lynne Truss (best known as the author of
      _Eats, Shoots and Leaves_) about the relative virtues of researching
      one's subject and creating a plausible fiction without direct
      knowledge of it. I found a number of points provocative, including her
      final anecdote about an "unrealistic" bit she had left in one of her
      monologues because it had actually happened, and how she now regretted
      it."

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6339747.stm

      I notice the very first comment talks about believability. And I wonder
      whether we shouldn't be pointing out that absolute accuracy is quite another
      matter than believability. Even the believability is a pretty subjective
      concept. I do sometimes wonder if we as writers have forgotten that lovely
      phrase "suspension of disbelief".

      I am beginning to wonder if we are giving our readers too little credit for
      understanding what they are reading is fiction.. i.e. it didn't really
      happen.

      Nan Hawthorne
      www.nanhawthorne.com
    • Lisa
      ... I really enjoyed the article and had this exact discussion with my CP. I had read an exerpt from an interview with an author whose work I have really
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 13, 2007
        Hi There:

        >I found a number of points provocative,

        I really enjoyed the article and had this exact discussion with my
        CP. I had read an exerpt from an interview with an author whose work
        I have really enjoyed, and she talked about how she had to write
        novels set where they were because she'd grown up there, and seemed
        to imply that she couldn't write novels set elsewhere. I'm working
        on a novel set in the UK and I've never been there, and I get
        insecure about this from time to time, so when I read this, I had a
        crazy moment of panic.


        I think it's fabulous that Stef Penney wrote a book that has been so
        well recieved, and I have no grudge against a foriegn author using my
        country for a novel. I'm doing the exact same thing. What I am
        trying to do though, and will need help with before I send it out
        into the world, is to have people who can read for errors. I want to
        handle the history with sensitivity, and the last thing I want is to
        make a big blunder.

        I do have a question though, and I feel a little silly asking it, but
        what/where is the Canadian outback? The author of the article uses
        the term, and it's not one I'm familiar with.


        Lisa (who feels that outback is a perfect description for where she
        lives)
      • Broos Campbell
        Thanks for the link, Nan. What a refreshing article. I particularly liked, I once wrote a whole novel set in the 1860s without bothering to do any exploratory
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 13, 2007
          Thanks for the link, Nan. What a refreshing article. I particularly liked, "I once wrote a
          whole novel set in the 1860s without bothering to do any exploratory time-travelling."

          Perhaps we do give readers too little credit. I think perhaps a greater problem, however, is
          the reader who doesn't credit other readers with being able to tell the difference between
          history and historical fiction. As Mark Twain said, pretending to quote the philosopher:
          "Herodotus says, 'Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at
          all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.'"

          Broos Campbell
          www.brooscampbell.com


          --- In HistoricalNovelSociety@yahoogroups.com, "Nan Hawthorne" <hathorn@...> wrote:
          >
          > A friend sent this link below with this comment:
          >
          > "There's an amusing article by Lynne Truss (best known as the author of
          > _Eats, Shoots and Leaves_) about the relative virtues of researching
          > one's subject and creating a plausible fiction without direct
          > knowledge of it. I found a number of points provocative, including her
          > final anecdote about an "unrealistic" bit she had left in one of her
          > monologues because it had actually happened, and how she now regretted
          > it."
          >
          > http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6339747.stm
          >
          > I notice the very first comment talks about believability. And I wonder
          > whether we shouldn't be pointing out that absolute accuracy is quite another
          > matter than believability. Even the believability is a pretty subjective
          > concept. I do sometimes wonder if we as writers have forgotten that lovely
          > phrase "suspension of disbelief".
          >
          > I am beginning to wonder if we are giving our readers too little credit for
          > understanding what they are reading is fiction.. i.e. it didn't really
          > happen.
          >
          > Nan Hawthorne
          > www.nanhawthorne.com
          >
        • Nan Hawthorne
          I found everyone s response here gratifying. I had been struggling with some low energy thanks to a few influences I allowed to get to me. I contacted a
          Message 4 of 4 , Feb 14, 2007
            I found everyone's response here gratifying. I had been struggling with
            some low energy thanks to a few influences I allowed to get to me. I
            contacted a reenactment group who turned out to be an amazing source of
            detail from my era and most willing to share.. but among them were one or
            two who seem to prefer more fact that fiction. My main debate was with
            whether a particular word existed at the time.... Since no one in the book
            speaks anything resembling modern English and therefore is being translated,
            I thought an equivalent translation would do.

            I do have to sing the praises of research though... perhaps from a different
            point of view. When my friend and I started to write "The Story" when we
            were 12 and 13 respectively in 1965 we set it in some generic "Middle Ages".
            A couple years later I decided on a date that would provide enough obscurity
            that I could get away with saying this person was the King of this country
            though neither ever existed. When I started looking into my era, late 8th
            century England, I started to fall in love with it... and now I wouldn't
            replace a stockaded hill fort for a stone castle if you paid me..

            Nan Hawthorne
            www.nanhawthorne.com

            ********************************

            "I see fictional people."

            ********************************
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