Sunday, October 28, 2012

History is more than wallpaper

First, let me preface this blog by saying this is my opinion. My blog, my opinion. Some will disagree with me.

I like a historical novel to have real historical details included. Characters who act as if they lived in that time, subject to the rules and traditions of that period. Genuine historical facts: buildings that existed at that time, or entirely made-up scenes but ones that are time-appropriate.

I do not like Ancient Romans who do up the zipper in their pants, Renaissance women who go to the bank and empty their account before leaving home, or nineteenth century heroes who hop on eBay to buy a gift for the heroine.

I understand that authors are creative people and have no problem at all with those who invent their own worlds and mix up whatever details they feel like throwing into the book and stirring together. As long as the world they create is consistent, as far as l’m concerned they can do whatever they want.

But when someone writes a historical novel, I want genuine, researched historically accurate places, people, situations and characters. Not a bit of historical wallpaper pasted on here and there. Wikipedia isn’t one hundred percent accurate, but it takes only a fraction of a second to check whether zippers were invented yet, whether an ordinary house had electricity, and to bring up pretty pictures of the clothing of that day.

If you’re the kind of author who can’t be bothered checking facts, but like the idea of olde-worlde things, do your readers a favor and write fantasy. Please.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...


Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Hi Anny,
I hear it's a tad windy out your way, courtesy of a hurricane named Sandy. Stay safe.