A Writer's Journey

August 13, 2012

Troubles of Being a History Buff

Filed under: journey,The Conference House,The Wedding Game,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Ever go to the Internet Movie Database?  Along with trivia about a movie, they have a section for goofs. One designation for goofs they have is anachronism. What is an anachronism? It’s when something is in the wrong era, for example if someone is driving around in a car that was not available in the year the movie/TV show is set in. Reading these, I wondered who actually noticed these?

Then I went to see “Brave.” Disney/Pixar doesn’t state a time frame in which the plot takes place in the movie. But the clothing and weaponry make it appear to be the Middle Ages, and I heard that Pixar has stated it’s somewhere between 800AD and 1100AD. That’s around the time period I’ve set “The Wedding Game” in. As I was watching the movie, there is a scene where Queen Elinor squeezes her daughter, our protagonist Merida, into a proper medieval dress. And that includes stuffing her untamable hair into a veil. Standing next to her, Elinor’s long black hair is in two plaits down her back. And this thought crossed my mind: Elinor is married; Merida is not. From my research for “The Wedding Game,” I learned at this period, married women wore veils while unmarried ones kept theirs long in plaits. Apparently, long hair was considered sexy.

But at that moment, I understood the people who write these anachronisms. You notice these things. And they bug you. Even if you repeat the MST3K mantra. It just eats away at you. Once you spot one, you spot more.

Does this always happen? No, at least not for me. For one thing, I don’t know everything about every historic period. So I’m bound to let some things pass just because I don’t know they are wrong. And there are some things you have to let go because of the story. Let’s go back to “Brave.” The men are wearing kilts with different Tartan (plaid) patterns. Except those are all Victorian ideas of what being Scottish meant. But they are now OUR ideas of what being Scottish means. So it’s understandable that Pixar had to include it.

The same thing sometimes happens when writing historical fiction. We sometimes have to fudge something for the sake of the story. I read “Fire Along the Sky” by Sara Donati. At the end, she wrote she had fudged the timeline of the War of 1812, moving two battles closer together. It was needed for the plot. And it worked.

I am thinking of the same thing, for “The Conference House.” Many of my characters are real people who lived on Staten Island during the Revolution. I’ve looked up their histories, especially of Colonel Christopher Billopp. He owned the house eventually called “The Conference House” and was one of the most powerful men on Staten Island. He was also a staunch Loyalist. Because of this, Patriots kidnapped him and held him ransom. My research, though, shows he was kidnapped after my 1776 setting. But for the sake of the story, I’m most likely going to move one up.

Hopefully, my history buff side will survive it.

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1 Comment »

  1. You make me feel much better. I do the same thing. Not always history, because I can tell you have more knowledge in that department than I do. Studies RTVF and Biology in college. RTVF is radio tv and film. When a film is cut poorly or the actress has a button un buttoned in one shot and two seconds later it is buttoned…it grates at me. When there is not congruency with characters. This happens in books and movies. It makes me literally squirm in my seat.

    Following you btw 🙂

    Comment by rebecca2000 — August 18, 2012 @ 9:42 pm | Reply


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