Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction (3)

Well, the Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction course is officially over. In all honesty, I started the course aiming to find some tools to work on a story regarding the Keichō Embassy from Japan to the Vatican, lead by Hasekura Tsunenaga between 1613 and 1620.

I am not left with an overall impression of the course that is positive. As you might remember, I have been a bit peeved with the whole deadline fumbling, and everyone going on their high horses about it. Well, the last deadlines also got juggled, and jumped a whole week backwards, so in the end basically every deadline got moved, some with louder announcements than others. I won’t go into that again, but changing requirements is not something that is going to give a course a good reputation (and the course organisers have been complaining about the “bad rep” of MOOCs).

Opinion on classmates aside, my general impression of the course is a big… ‘so what?’ I mean, what is the whole buzz about historical fiction? That it requires research, and sometimes a lot of it? That is true, if you want accuracy, but you need to research with whichever genre you are writing. Even when planning a fantasy world you need to decide on your laws of physics. I am making a big effort to get my hands on every factual yakuza publication out there, for example (which apparently makes me a huge geek somehow).
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It is not my intention to put down historical fiction as a lesser genre, but… research-wise it does not really feel a particularly different genre. If you want to portray anything with accuracy, you need to do your research. Using real people as characters might be the tricky part, but that is a choice the author makes. Each writing path has its own difficulties, I’d say, and historical fiction is not an exception in any way. You can also quite easily ‘ignore’ the research part and be deliberately ‘imprecise’, just giving clues about where and when you are – that’s the easy way (I am guilty of doing that before, I confess… and I am sort of doing that with the location of Turn of the Page right now).

I did decide to give Dickens a second chance and I would have bought one of the guest author’s books, if some idiot had not given away the ending on the forums. Also, I had thought about sharing the assignment ‘essay’ I wrote, but… you know, I kinda lost interest.

This is not me wanting to complain about something that I got for free, but not convinced. I did not find the course serious enough somehow. Wobbly deadlines are a sign of bad organisation and it is very hard for me to learn anything if it is not organised. That might be why right now I don’t feel like I learnt anything particular from Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction that can at the moment help me improve my writing.

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