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Do you read fiction books when doing your research

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Hi Everyone,

Sorry if this is a really "green" question.
I am new to the historical fiction space.
When you do your research do you just stick to non-fiction books, newspapers, etc or do you also read other fictional novels set in that time period?

Thanks,
Darshana
#1 - April 18, 2013, 11:40 PM
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Hi, I read everything to steep myself in the period -- fiction, NF, diaries are great if you can get your hands on them. But I also read great historicals to see how an author weaves a seamless story without the *research* showing. I went to a workshop with Patti Lee Gauch on writing HF and I'll never forget what she said -- the details must be part of the story. Basically the plot/history should be inextricably entwined.

So here are some of my favorite authors of HF for children -- Karen Cushman, Richard Peck, and most recently Clare Vanderpool.

Happy reading, studying and writing.
Vijaya
#2 - April 19, 2013, 06:58 AM
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Yes, definitely I do. Fiction can really help me with description and mood setting, ect.  :flower
#3 - April 19, 2013, 07:21 AM
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I do too! I've also found that a lot of authors will also list nonfiction books they used in their author's note or on their website , so that's a good source for more research too.
#4 - April 19, 2013, 08:43 AM
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Thanks everyone, this really helps!
Thanks Vijaya for listing some authors that do historical fiction.

I love the Blueboard!

-Darshana
#5 - April 19, 2013, 09:57 AM
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Yes, I also include fiction in my research reading, and very much agree with austen's point!
#6 - April 19, 2013, 05:57 PM
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Yes. I agree with austen that looking at the bibliography can be helpful. But be careful about getting facts from fiction. A novel may be accurate or it may contain errors--either through carelessness or because the author was taking poetic license to make the plot more interesting.
#7 - April 19, 2013, 06:04 PM
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It's always a good idea to read as much as you can in the area you want to write. SO, if you're writing historical fiction you need to read historical fiction. You can always research to  see if a "fact" you pick up in a fiction book is really a fact. But other fiction books are where you'll be able to study how other writers weave those facts into the fabric of the story, how they develop a story problem today's reader can relate to and so forth. And personal journals are fabulous places to get bits of information that add depth (and facts) to your story.
#8 - April 19, 2013, 09:31 PM
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Raising my hand with a YES. I read both fiction and historical fiction and non-fiction, all in the time period for which I write. I soak it all it, gleaning what I like, and chucking the rest.

Agreed, too, that facts from fiction can be... unreliable.

Even with on line historic sites, I have found differing "facts."

Read, read, read. Research, research, research. Write, write, write. Research, research, research. Revise, revise, revise.

Just saying.
#9 - May 31, 2013, 04:15 PM
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Speaking of revising... that should have been IN, not IT.  :embarrassed2
#10 - May 31, 2013, 04:17 PM
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Be sure to keep a bibliography page for yourself of what you're reading. This way if you need to go back to double-check something you won't waste a lot of time trying to re-find the information.
#11 - May 31, 2013, 09:33 PM
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Yes, I read both. Novels often point at nuances of periods that spark new research and even new themes.
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#12 - June 01, 2013, 09:27 AM
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I especially like to read old fiction that was contemporary at the time it was written. Especially helps with mindset and language of the time.
#13 - June 01, 2013, 06:52 PM
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I'm clearly in the minority here, but I never read fiction set in a time period about which I'm writing. I immerse myself in primary sources, mostly, and also read every work on nonfiction I can get my hands on. I visit sites, do interviews with historians, and watch documentaries, but I avoid other fiction like the plague. I'm too worried that it will affect the originality and freshness of my writing, which I always want to be driven by the characters and the actual history - not someone else's interpretation of it. I'm fascinated, though, that so many writers I admire do make other fiction a part of their reading. I just don't think it would work for me.
#14 - June 02, 2013, 06:31 AM
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CLK - interesting tip, will have to consider that.

Kate - I am concerned about the same thing too, but I am more afraid I won't get the voice, mannerisms correct from that time period without reading fiction. Also part of what I want to understand is that day-to-day ongoings which I wonder whether I can find in non-fiction.

#15 - June 03, 2013, 12:00 PM
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Darshana, I never read modern historical fiction set in the time I am writing about -- I just don't feel comfortable relying on another writer's research. HOWEVER I do read anything and everything written *during* that time period. Newspapers, diaries, fiction, nonfiction, sales catalogues...I gobble it all down. IMO, that is the best way to make sure you have an authentic voice for the time.

:) eab
#16 - June 03, 2013, 01:58 PM

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Thanks Auntybooks. I have never had to do research like this before.
I am not even sure where to find newspapers for the late 19th century of British India much less diary entries. Any tips on where to find this type of more daily life info.

I do have a list of non-fiction titles to read. Though everything so far is from the British viewpoint. Need to find some from the Indian side as well.

Thanks!
#17 - June 03, 2013, 10:14 PM
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I've been reading some modern historical fiction while writing. It's actually been quite freeing to see that many authors don't have laundry lists of historical detail, but just the right amount to set the reader in the time period.
#18 - June 26, 2013, 07:43 AM

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Darshana, maybe try Google Books or Project Gutenberg.
#19 - June 26, 2013, 08:47 AM
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Thanks Marissa, will check them out.
#20 - June 26, 2013, 09:52 PM
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Darshana, I know you mentioned British India—have you read The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye? It's historical fiction set in British India, written in the 60s or 70s I think. The author spent at least part of her childhood in India and there's a lot of fascinating, historical details (the epic, sweeping story doesn't hurt either!!). Both the British and Indian viewpoints are represented if I recall correctly. It's long, but I found it incredibly inspiring!
#21 - July 02, 2013, 02:24 PM

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Hi Joanna. Nope I hadn't heard of that title. Thanks!
#22 - July 02, 2013, 10:25 PM
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Absolutely. But I read the fiction more as market research than topic research though.  I typically find myself running down rabbit trails on the loc website and run out of time to read all the fiction I wish I could read - haha.
#23 - July 03, 2013, 01:37 AM

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The only danger in reading a lot of historical fiction while working on a story set in the same time and place is that you don't always know if the historical detail in the fiction you're reading is accurate, and if it might not seep into your own work.
#24 - July 03, 2013, 04:35 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
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