I’m traveling right now, so Rue Allyn graciously offered to take over my blog for the day. Rue writs across several genres, including historical. She is also a sister military veteran.
Take it away, Rue!!
TITLE: Historical Detail: The good, the bad, and the challenge
Ella, thank you very much for inviting me to visit with your followers today. Some of them may wonder what an author of medieval and western historical romances is doing on a blog largely dedicated to regency romance. The key is in the love of historical detail that makes a romance come alive. We all know that character and conflict drive a good story, but in a historical setting even the best character and conflict will fail if the historical details are implausible. At the same time, we write fiction—NOT history. So those purists who find the shift of a year or phrase unknown in print before the timeline of a story might wish to re-consider their expectations. For the author, finding the right balance between documented history and good fiction is a challenge.
A terrifically glaring example of historical inaccuracy in a fictional setting is the movie version of The Lone Ranger. I enjoyed this movie tremendously, partly because I did not expect historical accuracy. For instance, the story is set in Texas during 1869. However, a large number of scenes were filmed in Monument Valley which is geographically fixed in Arizona and Utah (hundreds of miles from Promontory Point where the Transcontinental Railroad linked up). The story is predicated on a railroad land grab scheme involving the transcontinental railroad. In itself that’s very plausible, but not when the transcontinental railroad does not and never did pass through Texas. As history, the movie is appalling. As story, I found it delightful. The scenery did not take away from the narrative. Details of historical dress and behavior were entirely plausible. Speech patterns and vocabulary choices were right on target. I could, and did, suspend my disbelief of the location inaccuracies.
By way of contrast the recent remake of True Grit, with Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn (IMHO this version is a vast improvement on the very enjoyable John Wayne original) comes to mind as a shining example of historical accuracy in fiction. Location, dress, speech, behaviors in True Grit all combine to support and enhance a terrific story that engrossed me so much, I didn’t notice a single historical inaccuracies. Some things about True Grit are improbable, i.e. a thirteen year old girl accompanying the men searching for her father’s killer, but the improbable is made possible within the historical context.
Was The Lone Ranger a better movie than True Grit? No, both are excellent stories, given appropriate expectations.
In my own work I strive for the kind of accuracy that makes the improbable possible for the reader. In One Night’s Desire, the improbability is that a woman would know photography and work as a photographer on an exploratory expedition in the Yellowstone area of the US. History makes this probable because Henry Jackson was the photographer for the official US government expeditionary force that mapped the Yellowstone area. Women like Calamity Jane were known to dress like men and perform jobs commonly given to men. I could go on at great length to provide other examples of the good, bad and difficult use of historical detail in fiction. However, I think you get my point. Writers have a responsibility to use history to enhance the story experience for readers. Nonetheless, do not allow a small inaccuracy to destroy a good story for you, especially when all other details contribute to a plausible fictive world.
A WOMAN ON THE RUN: Rustlers, claim jumpers and fire, nothing will stop Kiera Alden from reuniting her family. But an accusation of murder threatens her dreams and sets Marshall Evrett Quinn on her trail. She may be able to escape prison bars and eventually prove her innocence, but she can’t escape Quinn’s love.
A LAWMAN IN HOT PURSUIT: Marshall Evrett Quinn is relentless in pursuit of law-breakers, and pretty Kiera Alden is no exception. Clever and courageous, she evades him until a chance encounter turns the tables. Finally he has this elusive desperado under arrest, but success is bittersweet when she captures his heart.
EXCERPT LINK: http://rueallyn.com/2c2ONDexcerpt.html
One Night’s Desire and its sister book One Moment’s Pleasure are heavily discounted at Amazon for the entire month of July
ABOUT RUE: Author of historical, contemporary, and erotic romances, Rue Allyn fell in love with happily ever after the day she heard her first story. She is deliriously married to her sweetheart of many years and loves to hear from readers about their favorite books and real life adventures. Learn more about Rue and her books at http://RueAllyn.com
KEYWORDS: western historical, Rue Allyn, Crimson Romance Publishing, US Marshals, Wyoming, Shoshone, Horse Stealing, Claim jumping, sacrifice, Shoshone, Yellowstone, Wind River, mountains