Monday, May 29, 2006

On wallpaper historicals

On the various weblogs I visit, there has been a lot of talk lately about wallpaper historicals, romance novels set in the past that are essentially costume dramas. The writer may get the garments and hair correct but neglects other historical details such as diet, language, politics, attitude. What surprised me—dare I say shocked?—is the large number of readers who don't seem to care if the writer gets the facts straight. They want an interesting story and care not one whit whether the heroine couldn't possibly have acted in that manner given the constraints of the period.

I'm the first one to admit that research can be insidious. It is enough to paint an accurate picture; far too much to impart a history lesson. But, come on, the writer has to get it right, doesn't she?

What do you think? For those of you who don't read historicals, what would you require from the genre?



Blogger Stacy Dawn said...

I like the occasional historical, especially Regency but I'm afraid I wouldn't know enough of the history to know if something was right or wrong. Now, I have caught an occasional goof up and I figured it had to be major if I could spot it.

Do you find that because you've researched and written historical that you are more critical of other's work then? Does this ruin the stories for you?

1:36 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

I'm fairly knowledgeable about the Victorian period, so I suppose if I caught an error in another writer's work, I'd be disgruntled with her. I might give her the benefit of the doubt on one count but not two. It all depends on the error.

For me, romance novels take me to another place. If the writer does a poor job evoking the past, I as a reader may get tossed out of the story. Depending on the intrusion, I may not venture back.

If you like Regencies, try Loretta Chase. I'm in awe.

3:37 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

I don't think it matters what genre you're writing in - if you're using factual information, it HAS to be correct. If there's one thing that would put me off buying a second book by any author, it would be finding something factually incorrect. It makes a mockery of the story and the writer's ability/credibility to tell it. I feel the same way about tv/radio programmes, films, newspaper reports, magazine articles, even promotional material - anything less than 100 per cent accuracy is unacceptable.

Do I make myself clear?!

6:38 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Loud and clear! Glad to hear it, Annie.

7:02 pm  
Blogger Stacy Dawn said...

Yes ma'am!

7:35 pm  
Blogger Sue aka MsCreativity said...

I love reading Philippa Gregory's novels based during the reign of King Henry VIII.

As a reader, I feel very short-changed if the writer doesn't bother with thorough research to make the story believable.

I remember feeling short-changed when watching Titanic. (The bit where Kate Winslet sticks her fingers up in rebellion to the person chasing them.) For me, that scene ruined the entire feeling of the historic period that I had immersed myself in. Nothing felt as believable after that.

12:11 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

I'm glad to hear everyone is in agreement and appreciates the time the writer takes to set the stage. I shall rally on!

5:34 pm  
Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I'm a stickler, probably too much so. But I do think it's worth it to dig a little deeper, to try to find not just the facts, but the mind of the time, and the attitudes of the heart. I think it makes a much richer read. But it's easy to overdo, isn't it?

2:25 am  
Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

The Sequel-
I remember in Shakespeare in Love, when the heroine was shipped of to a tobacco plantation in Virginia, in 1590, when there were no Europeans in Virginia. Ruined the movie.

2:29 am  
Blogger Eva said...

Welcome, Daniel. Thanks for stopping by. You're right, it is too easy to overdo it. In the past I've reached a point where research threatened to take over plot - clearly, time to take a step back.

12:45 pm  

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