Saturday, 28 April 2012

Historical Accuracy

I've come across a funny glitch in my writing recently.  I am in the midst of an historical fiction type young adult book about Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus.  She an ancient Greek mythological character.  This is where I've come across an interesting stumbling block - she's mythological.  She was legend already in Classical Greek times, the time we all associate with ancient Greece, with its marble temples and statues.

I'm a Classicist and am fascinated by Antigone and always thought it would be fun to write a book about her - she's so strong, she stands up for herself even when others push her around.  She's a rarity in the ancient world.  I thought creating the classical world in a novel would be fairly easy because I know a fair amount about it.  But soon after I started editing my manuscript, it dawned on me that Antigone wasn't classical, she was pre-classical, possibly archaic and maybe even older. 

Hmm, I thought, researching this age in history.  Depending on how far back I want to go, she could be living in a simple mud brick house instead of a beautiful marble palace.  This will definitely change the tone of the book.  And it affects more than the physical setting - it changes how men and women interacted with each other, as well as things like the politics of the time.

So, I've been wavering - do I stick with the classical world that everyone knows and loves?  Or do I go farther back in time?  If so, how far?  Let's just say, I've managed to distract myself from my actual editing by doing a lot of research on this.  It's so much fun to procrastinate with a cause!

What I've ultimately decided to do (for now) is to make her setting older than the classical time, but not quite the mud brick time.  I'll go with something in between, when palaces were big, but made of wood or stone. 

However, this whole thing has brought some interesting questions up for me around historical accuracy.  I want to be accurate and I know that it is OK to play with history a bit for your story, but how much is okay?  Readers want something authentic feeling, but they also want a good story.

Does anyone have any thoughts around this?  I would love to hear them.

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