Tuesday, 2 April 2013

“Romantic Fiction Versus Historical Fiction.”

Stepping back in time is a relatively easy thing to achieve for a novelist, is it not? After all, we need only select a chosen period, preferably an era in which something dramatic occurred, and Lo and Behold we have a ready-made plot, or do we?
   Let us now pause for breath. Who or what shall we write about?

What about this flamboyant warrior prince?
Handsome devil, ain't he, and how much do you really know about him, or think you do?

   But of course, (metaphorically speaking) as historical writers we’re setting off along corridors where candles or flaming torches light our path (cough). The winds of time all the while whisper through loose windows and howl from the dark labyrinths our ancestors knew so well. We may even start and falter in step at hearing a worn latch rasping metal-to-metal in gentle lamentation for the passing of the ages, for that is how we immerse ourselves in the chronicled atmosphere of history. And onward we tread in hunger and thirst for historical intrigue, political shenanigans, royal murder mysteries, and a fair bit of mayhem and a touch of romance along the way.
   We may happen upon a battle or become involved in a minor skirmish. We will no doubt pay witness to abhorrent acts of brutality and sexual violence. But all this is happening in the past, and if we adhere to 21st century thinking on morality we’d best not venture back in time.
   Now let’s imagine resting a tome of historical fact on one’s knee and a sudden gasp escapes into the silence of the ether: Gosh, did he really do that? Oh lordy, but that missive I put aside declares otherwise. Oh crikey.
   More tomes and pigeon-holed parchments must yet be browsed and what a daunting prospect, whilst copious notes already penned add to the accumulation of bewildering information. But, even well documented historical events may differ between penned personal accounts to that of state, court or ecclesiastical papers. When omissions occur and details of an event are vague or at odds in conclusion and, from differing sources, detective work is necessary in order to adhere to fact rather than fiction.
   Hmmm. So how do we set about filtering assumptions that might have paid court to individual chroniclers’ imaginations when they themselves penned accounts of events that occurred before their own lifetimes, or were influenced by allegiance to others? The inevitability of envy, revenge and all manner of political and courtly power struggles manifest often as calumnies set against rival factions. Worse, how much imagination is now going to play a part in how our chosen persons of note are going retell their story?

   Did I hear a titter from the back of the room expressing thoughts in the vein of, “but it is us the author who will retell the story!”

  Well let me tell you, there are different ways of conveying stories.
Straight Historical Biographies are prime examples of the much talked about tell-don’t-show style of writing = the detached narrative style, which reads more akin to a factual reference book. Rarely are authors of these kinds of novel able to impart any sense of the notable person’s personality beyond that of “this is how s/he was, this is what happened”. Hence this particular narrative style best suits straight telling biographies of historical celebrities. We get the basics, we get some finer detail, and we know when that person lived and what they did: presupposing we didn’t know all this beforehand. What else have we gained from this book? We’ve gained the author’s perspective on whomever/whatever the subject matter is. So, all in all it’s pretty damn easy to determine what is purely a straight historical biography, right? NO, is the answer, because Historical Biographies of late have become Pseudo Historical Biographies, which reflect more than mere author perspective on a time past, persons and events unfolding.

In Pseudo Historical Biographies an author will step beyond the detached narrative and in part become the historical celebrity and often as not adopt their own perceived mindset of their chosen subject matter: plus that of other key players. Once the mantle is donned the author then conveys thoughts, words, and actions, which in turn hopefully will bring the characters to life. We get to know their innermost thoughts, (or do we?), we feel their anger, joy, love, and we experience their anguish, their fears, and all the physical aspects of brutality and sexual depravity they may witness or experience for self.

The author’s aim within a Psuedo Historical Biography is to transport a reader back in time where senses are set alight and minds left reeling in the atmosphere of the author’s creation. Creation being the optimum word, for the author can only surmise what a person thought, felt and said, except in rare cases of documented quotes. And here the The Thin Line Wavers on the very edge of Fiction and Non-Fiction, and from The Thin Line Historical Romance & Historical Fiction banners stream and billow in the breeze because these two are the middle ground historical novels, the more popular sub genres of the historical fleet of books that inevitably sail on to the bookstands.

Who is this young woman? Does it matter that she became a fictitious character in one of my books and, that she met Prince Rupert, and when a child cavorted around the royal court with the Prince of Wales who later became Charles II. 

Authors of Historical Romance & Historical Fiction tend toward creation of worlds within worlds, where fictitious characters are creations of the author’s imagination. The characters might mingle with historical persons of note and pass the time of the day with them, dine with them and perhaps fight alongside them. Whatever happens, these individual stories although set within a noteworthy historical period, event or periphery of some great turning point in history, the true events are adhered to by sensible authors. Readers will either love the characters or hate them. In these kinds of novels a balance of narrative, dialogue and action are vital, because readers want to be thrilled, given to sighs in a romantic moment and left in awe as the book reaches its finale. What are your thoughts on the The Thin Line?

What do I write? In the historical genre I pen historical romances and historical series novels in which persons of historical note have walk-on parts. If you don’t like steamy and risqué sex, nor soldiers of fortune and strong heroines then my novels are not for you…

So where does your story telling fit in the historical genre?