History Hoydens

Example

Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

30 October 2006

Faking It

I'll wager that most historical writers love doing research. I'm not a research junkie, but I'd rather do research than "write blind" any day of the week. But sometimes, despite my best efforts, a crucial piece of information refuses to come to light. I sift through the haystack of facts, but the needle continues to elude me.

Now I'm left in the unenviable position of having to "fake it" -- to make an element of my story seem realistic, in the absence of facts.

Maybe this is something only the anal-retentive among us worry about. Heaven knows I've read some less-than-plausible plot lines in published historical novels: the wealthy Duke who is not only convicted for murdering a commoner, but sentenced to death; the dukedom that will fall into the widow's hands upon the duke's death (seems to me the King would have something to say about that); the shy, well-bred, shelterd young virginal Lady who inexplicably decides to toss her morals and her skirts in the wind and have sex with a stranger at a masked ball.

Those situations could have been made believable with the right treatment -- maybe the Duke murdered another peer? -- but it takes a deft hand to make the implausible work.

My own dilemma is a bit different. In the absence of facts, I have to make the plot point as believable as I can without defying all that I know about history. The point is a simple one: Would my heroine -- an unmarried, aristocratic young lady in Regency England -- have been able to take music lessons at the Royal Academy of Music? I've decided to make the situation plausible by utilizing the attitudes of various characters in the story, as follows:

* Her Viscount brother disapproves of her going to the Academy, saying the neighborhood might be unsafe;
* Her father, an earl, forbids her from going;
* Her friends' husband, himself a commoner, remarks that a lady as wealthy as the heroine will have the musicians at the RAM falling over themselves to give her instruction.

I'm hoping that having these characters comment on the heroine's actions from their own individual point of view will carry away the disbelief of any readers who know more about the history of the Royal Academy of Music than I've been able to uncover.

Now I'm wondering about the rest of you. Have you been faced with a situation where you couldn't find the facts you needed? Or have you read a book where the author was so skillful that you were able to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride?

Cheers for now,
Doreen

2 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Doreen, you are so my hero. Someday I'm going to write about musicans (which I pretty much know squat about) and it'll be all diners all the time so I can pump you for info. LOL!

I fake it all the time. IMO, it's about knowing WHEN to fake it, and HOW to fake it.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Mary Blayney said...

I struggled endlessly over details until one day author Patricia Gaffney, herself the creator of some wonderful, well reserached hisotricals said to me "It's FICTION which means that you make stuff up." And, by golly, she's right. So I try not to worry too much over details that I can't find the answers to.

In the "have I faked it" department: Pat made that comment as I was trying (endlessly) to find out how they would fight a fire in one of the Great Houses (for "His Last Lover"). I never found enough info to be absolutely sure so I built on the reserach I had uncovered and made it up -- hoping it would sound believeable to the reader.

On the other hand I have been scrupulous about military and naval details -- there is so much info out there and so many people who know it all by heart. I don't dare fake that!

Mary

7:13 AM  

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