One of my pet peeves in the writing world are other authors who think they know everything about history. Usually they claim to be historians or hold some fancy degree in some irrelevant subject. Normally I just brush them off and go about my business, but an article in the newspaper caught my eye and raised my ire. The way I look at it is there are two kinds of authors: historians and storytellers. Guess which one I am? I am not trying to say that it is okay to get lazy on research when writing about a historical period, but no one can possibly know everything.
This article is titled Life's a blur: When biopic movies blend fact and fiction. It talks mainly about movies, but the same information can be applied to books. It seems no matter what story is told there are always people who will pick it apart with their annoying fact-checking. Don't they have anything better to do? I feel if I have to shorten a timeline to make the story move faster then I should be able to do that without being criticized for it. It's called 'fiction' for a reason. I do what it takes to tell a compelling story. If I wanted to tell a detailed story about a historical figure then I would write a boring history book.
A couple of phrases stood out to me in this article. One is "The best biopics transcend their subjects." The other phrase is "No one is a reliable narrator of a life, not even the person living it." This is so true and some people will do right by remembering this. I don't even remember every detail of my own life. How can someone write a perfect story about someone else? It's just not possible. Why can't certain people just enjoy a book or a movie? Unless there is some major anachronism, just enjoy books and movies for what they were meant to be for--pure entertainment.
Everyone has their own way of doing research. I would say do your best to read as many sources on the subject as you can and don't rely only on the internet. Even reading respected sources on some subjects are iffy. The time periods I write about are hard to research, but I find whatever I can and then compare notes. I don't believe everything I read on the ancient Celts because the Roman writers were biased and called them 'barbaric' when archaeological evidence proves otherwise. Even the classical Greek writers were biased. I try to read between the lines and come to my own conclusions. I am proud to call myself a storyteller.
To read the entire article click here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/11/23/ST2007112300970.html