churchwell

kateandtheuniverse  asked:

Hello :) I am working on a theatre script with a friend and our premise is an art-thief in 1950s Europe who can disable guards and such with a superpower. After the theft she leaves hints as to where she'll strike again and what she'll take. The problem we're facing right now is the historical 'accuracy' to some extent, so the link between the story and actual art-history, since we can't find a lot about stuff being stolen in the 50s across Europe. How can we make the story seem more 'real'? Thx

Let’s Talk About Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is an awesome genre that rarely gets the love it deserves. It is a piece of work that is fictional (as in made up), but set in the past. It can borrow from characteristics of the time period, but it is not a necessity. Historical fiction may take place during an important event in the time period (e.g. the Revolutionary War, reign of Queen Victoria) and generally incorporates fictional characters who tell the story from their point of view. Well known historical figures may be included in the plot, in which case the events of their lives would be depicted in a way that is not recorded in history. For example, The Book Theif tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a German girl growing up in Nazi Germany during World War II. Liesel and her friends have both direct and indirect interactions with famous regime leaders which affects their character development and the plot of the book. While the main characters of the novel were not explicitly “real,” they exist in a time of tumultuous change and fear that is a major defining point in human history. 

While historical fiction is defined as “a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past,” some authors chose to use their creative license to make their settings more romantic or appealing.[1]  Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities Sarah Churchwell argues that writers use this license as an excuse to write and publish novels without doing the prerequesite research.[2] However, writing is an art form just like painting and acting. There is no reason why fiction authors should be forced to keep an accurate picture of the past if they do not want to. As long as it meets the definition of historical fiction by the barest minimum, one can argue that a piece of work is in fact historical fiction. The only reprocussion to this is that after a certain amount of details begin to change, the book will slowly begin to drift from the ‘historical fiction’ category to ‘fiction.’ Rebekah wrote a great post about defining genres here if you wish to learn more.

The point I’m ultimately trying to make is that your script does not need to be about an art theif committing a real crime, especially since art theft was not super common during that time period. As long as it takes place in the 1950s, you will be writing a historical fiction script. The accuracy and realism in that case come from how you describe the people and setting during that time. Research the political climate, dialect/slang in the specific countries, fashion trends during the time, and any period laws that may directly affect your character or plot. With the proximity to World War II, a lot of Eastern European territories during that time were faced with a great deal of political turmoil.[3] Western Europe, on the other hand entered a golden age.[4] Depending on exactly where you chose to place your setting, you may need to do some extensive research around the communities in that area. 

Your script’s accuracy will only be as good as the research your do, so start by figuring out how “fictional” you want your historical fiction to be and go from there. 

xx Sarah

@kateandtheuniverse

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Section of the Galactic Plane

This is a section of the Galactic plane measured with the Spitzer Space Telescope. In this four-color composite, blue is 3.6 microns, green is 4.5 microns, orange is 5.8 microns, and red is 8.0 microns. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/E. Churchwell (University of Wisconsin).