Okay, so I whined about this on a couple other blogs today (sorry!) and then thought, no- this particular topic deserves its very own blog post!
I hate it, absolutely hate it when historical fiction writers get sloppy. I also hate it in Hollywood, but I take that with a grain of salt because it’s, well, Hollywood. For example, the use of coins in Troy- the one with Brad Pitt. (Don’t get me started about how Homer’s version wasn’t good enough so Hollywood had to muck with it.) They didn’t have coins in that time period of ancient Greece/Troy. If I recall correctly, coins in the Western world weren’t invented until the 6th century BCE- way before the Iliad.
Last night I was looking forward to writing a big chunk of RELUCTANT QUEEN. The scene I’m currently working on is a funeral, one that should be rich and fairly dramatic. But it’s set in an obscure pyramid complex, one of them in Saqqara that I’ve never been to. (Drat that I didn’t know I needed to go there last time I was in Egypt!)
So I spent about an hour researching. And then another hour writing. A page.
ACK! And the whole page is description. Description that will get cut to a couple sentences. But I needed the details right- the layout of the four pyramids (five if you count the cult pyramid within the main pyramid’s temple), the inscriptions on the walls, the names of the queens of the smaller pyramids.
Why, you ask, would I need all this? Who really cares?
History nerds like me care! It would be plain lazy of me to make the stuff up. I’m okay with making things up that further the story- characters, scenic details that would affect the plot, and so on. But it would be sloppy of me to make up the queen’s names if the historical record had preserved them this long. Although one of them is named Udjebten. And there was another reference to an Ineneh-Inti. And I thought Hatshepsut was a mouthful.
So it dawned on me that if I spend this much time on details (in the name of history) and then cut them (in the name of writing for an audience who doesn’t care that there was a guard house to the right of the first causeway ramp), other writers probably do the same thing.
Do you? Just tell me you do so I don’t feel so bad. Puh-lease?