Saturday, January 7, 2012

How to Be Slightly Inaccurate, Historically; and Why

I'm spending a lot of time trying to be a good person as a writer. I'm trying to make sure my writing is at least a little representative of the world as I'd like to have it. Stronger women, gentler men, more minorities, that sort of thing. It's not very hard to do, and not something that is often out of place. But there are moments when I grow a bit concerned, as with my current work in progress.

I'm writing historical dark fairy tale stuff, set in 16th Century rural Austria. Women had rather limited roles there and then, and so I'm reasonably limited in what I can have my female characters do. I know of course that women in real history did all sorts of remarkable things all the time: ruled countries, fought in battles, ran their estates, things that are often overlooked or forgotten. So I can have all that happen, but it doesn't seem like quite enough to me.

Then of course I think about the writing of the last century or two, by men especially. Where women seldom appeared in anything but a moral or supporting role, and did little or nothing of note for the story. Only in dramatic pieces could women be real characters, and then their actions were still strongly limited and curtailed. They might feel real, but they were just as evidently trapped, caged by society. And while this is predominantly historically true, it wasn't always so.

So I think about it, and I realize that if I just keep the characters interesting, and on the edge of the "historically" possible, I'm doing pretty well. I'll do more in other places, other works. History sets limits that can't really be contravened entirely, and I'm not going to. But I will make every effort to step right up to the boundary, and possible slip a toe across now and then. I'd feel bad if I did anything less, and like I was failing as a writer. It seems a small thing, but I have a platform, and I'd rather use it to try to change attitudes than to support a worn out status quo.

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