Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Accuracy - Historical or otherwise

I just finsihed reading a short story sent to The Cactus Line at Wild Rose Press for our Holiday shorts. The only reason I could find that it was sent to the Cactus Line (western historical) was the hero wore chaps and they rode from town in a horse drawn wagon.

Granted it is a short story, but there was no setting to let the reader know when or where the story took place. The heroine was a mail-order bride, she stepped off the train with a bag that had a shoulder strap. There was mention of a tavern, and they drove to the hero's home in the horse drawn wagon. There was a refrigerator in the house. So there had to be electricity or did they have an icebox?? But there was no mention of anything else electrical and the hero brought the heroine a tub of water to wash in?? Are you as confused as I am??

If this is in the 1800's as it should be for the Cactus Rose line there could be an icebox if they were in town, but this was in a secluded valley. Tavern - maybe if they were in the East. A bag with a shoulder strap. If it was a rucksack or something like that, but it was mentioned like a large purse.

Historical accuracy - I don't want the facts shoved at me like a text book, but I would like to have a good grounding as to when and where the story takes place.

How do you feel about inaccuracies in writing, be it historical, geographical, or sceintific?


wavybrains said...

Our speaker this month really drove home the importance of setting and made me approach it in a different light--somewhere between information dump and NO setting there is a place where setting becomes PART of the story and I think that is what we should be striving for. It's very hard to strike that balance though. As far as historical accuracy, one tip I have read on various sites is to get your draft down without getting bogged down by details, then as part of the editing process verify each detail for accuracy. No refrigerators in the wild west! Great post.

Anonymous said...

Oh Paty! This is so frustrating. I believe in historical accuracy as far as setting. I don't care if you take an historical figure and use them in your story, create dialogue and situations for them to be in with your characters, but the dates need to be accurate, the wars, the foods, the clothes, everything like that.

Sometimes an author will take a liberty here or there, but as long as they explain that they are doing it, then I don't mind. You know, like a blurb in the front or back of the book. Shannon Drake does that in her Scottish Historicals and those are my favorite books. But she lets the reader know her intent.

B made a good point too, about writing the draft, then going back through and filling in the correct info at revision time.

Loved the post!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I don't read historicals, and frankly, I wouldn't know what was accurate and what wasn't, so I can't comment on that. I do know geographical and scientific errors really bug me though. For instance, I read a book a couple years ago that was set on the Oregon Coast. The main characters were walking along their coastal property, sweating in 95 degree temps. Now, anyone who's ever BEEN to the OR coast knows 95 degree temps anytime in the summer are rare anomolies. That bugged me. Scientific facts also bother be when they're wrong. With the invention of the internet, it's not hard to look them up, although it does take time.