Author Topic: Historical fiction  (Read 1353 times)

DwWin

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Historical fiction
« on: June 25, 2009, 07:36:10 AM »
I'm in the process of trying to write my first novel, historical fiction, and have come across a problem I never counted on. During my research I came across a couple of speeches that were made by a couple of the characters I intend using. These speeches are in good old fashioned English and I would like to rewrite them in modern day English, while keeping the sentiment and tone of the original. As this is a work of fiction, is it allowed or am I in danger of been attacked by historical 'purists'?

Offline Frichie

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Re: Historical fiction
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 08:31:02 AM »
Well isnt Historical Fiction, loosly based on History...otherwise it would just be a history book.

I would think there is certainly poetic license.

Like David Gemmel's Troy books :)
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Offline flights_of_fantasy

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Re: Historical fiction
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 08:31:37 AM »
To a large extent I think it will depend on the overall tone of your novel and the time period you are writing in. If you can keep the sentiment and tone of the period even throughout, then your modernisation of the speeches shouldn't be too obvious.

I have two books by Margaret George: The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles. The books are meant to give the appearance that they were written during the lives of Henry and Mary, and yet they aren't bogged down by heavy Tudor-speak. They are both light, easy reads. You can see excerpts of those books and others on her website. Unfortunately, I don't remember if she used any famous speeches, or how she incorporated them if she did. It's a while since I read them.

I consider myself a purist only as far as my favourite time period is concerned. Some modernised language doesn't bother me, as long as authors can keep their anachronisms to a minimum and character behaviour realistic to the times. In an age where the internet makes information so widely available, having a whistling kettle in an 1830's kitchen, or tipping a boy a dollar for holding a horse in Regency London means the book ends up in the charity bag before I reach the end. If an inexperienced beginner like me can take the time to get it right, I expect published authors to make a similar effort.  ;D
Heather

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Offline Hugh

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Re: Historical fiction
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 08:35:46 AM »
That is a good question, Dave, to which I don’t know the answer. However, I would guess it rather depends on how “old fashioned” the English is. As someone who had to read Chaucer in the original language at school I wouldn’t, as a reader of your novel, welcome having to try to decipher a speech written like that.

I imagine the dialogue in your book will reflect the speech patterns of the period. If you wrote the speeches in a similar way, I wouldn’t attack you, but I can’t speak for the historical purists.

This is probably no help whatever, but it’s my opinion for what it’s worth.

Hugh

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Historical fiction
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2009, 09:50:33 AM »
Keep in mind that historical speeches often weren't actually spoken at the time, but were invented after the fact by historians or victors in a battle, etc. and inserted into the mouth of the great Hero/General/King etc. (Are we really sure Julius Caesar said: Friends, Romans, Countrymen....??? There are opinions....) If historians of the past can(re)invent speeches for people, so can you. Especially since you're writing fiction.  :) 

Historical fiction is always in danger of having stuffy, formal dialogue. To the modern ear, it may sound "historical," but it doesn't do the reader or all your hard work at characterisation any service. I'd say you should take whatever section of the speech you want and clean up the language. Take out some of those awkward grammatical constructions and flowery  language if it's there. You don't have to change a lot, probably. Just some cuts to make the speech read more smoothly to a modern ear. 
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Offline pb

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Re: Historical fiction
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2009, 06:51:21 PM »
this may be innapropriate but i'd say - definitely - sod the historical purists (albeit politely, and in a manner befitting them)

it's between you and your publisher (i would imagine).





Offline kk

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Re: Historical fiction
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2009, 06:58:51 PM »
Quote
this may be innapropriate but i'd say - definitely - sod the historical purists (albeit politely, and in a manner befitting them)

it's between you and your publisher (i would imagine).

Keeping in mind that you may get scathing criticism from the 'purist' critics.  But, will you really care?
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”

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