Writing choices – historical fact vs taking creative liberties

There are three types of writers of historical fiction:

1. The writer who has only a vague idea what society was like in the time period about which they’re writing and who blithely ignores historical facts;

2. The writer who pays slavish attention to historical details; and

3. The writer who is aware of those historical details, but opts to take some creative liberties for the sake of their story’s plot/atmosphere/etc.

Waltz1816_72I am the third type of writer. Yes, I know that during the time in which my Landing a Lord series starts – 1806 – the waltz wasn’t accepted in society, and it certainly wasn’t allowed at Almack’s. Yet I chose to have my characters waltz anyway. In the acknowledgements at the end of Dancing with the Duke you’ll see the following note:

Any anachronisms in this story (namely, one waltz at Almack’s in 1806, which I included because I felt it suited the plot) are my own.

You’ll find a similar note at the back of my upcoming book, Loving the Marquess.

When characters are at a ball, they can only sneak away so often to have a private conversation. I love the idea that right there on the ballroom floor, surrounded by crowds of people, the hero and heroine can have a conversation they shouldn’t be engaging in. I feel that it makes the scene more intense. The same effect cannot be gained when the hero and heroine toss quips back and forth while moving through the figures of a quadrille.

I know that making a conscious choice to take creative liberties with an historical fact could lead to me being called a “mistorical” writer. I accept that term if others choose to wield it because I firmly believe that story is paramount. Writers are often told that they must first learn the “rules” of writing, and only then can they choose to break those rules for effect. I take that advice to heart in all aspects of the writing process.

I could have moved the date of the story to a later one, but the hero of the last book of the series returns to England in 1815 after having fought in the Napoleonic wars. Since he is only eighteen in Loving the Marquess … well, you see my dilemma.

And so yes, my characters will continue to waltz in 1806.

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