Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Rant

This might not be such a good time to do this and I don't know - I might delete it once I simmer down some, but right now I'm annoyed with some of my fellow romance readers.
I've been reading a couple of threads at AAR on the importance of historical accurateness and I'm seeing - if not red - a definite dark pink. I've explained my theory before on what I see as the two types of readers, the artistic and the technical. If I knew how to search for previous posts, I'd link to it but since I don't have a clue, here's a brief synopsis:

Artistic readers are concerned with the emotion that comes with reading historical romance. They may notice the occasional incorrectness, but if the story and the characters have 'grabbed' them, the incorrectness doesn't really bother them that much.
I'm an artistic reader
The technical reader on the other hand, pays close attention to the facts and inaccuracies drive them bonkers and could ruin an otherwise good book.

So the uber technical readers are all up in arms in the threads, nitpicking and complaining about the lazy writers of romance and how they should almost be drawn and quartered for missing tiny insignificant facts.
First there was a post from Adele Ashworth on her reaction to some of the nitpickedniness of some of the more anal technical readers where she made this comment
But what made me laugh (and I mean literally laugh) when the fallout began over historical inaccuracies in TDI was when readers complained that the "champagne flute wasn't invented yet" and "women didn't use cosmetic brushes in 1870." It was truly a head-scratching, WTF? moment for me. I worked very hard to create a believable romance, with accurate historical detail and the most believable dialogue possible considering the time period and storyline — and yes, I took some creative license with a heroine-opera-singer-who's-secretly-an-earl's-sister-but-nobody-knows-who-she-is, kind of thing. But I never expected to frustrate readers because I had the hero drinking from a champagne flute instead of a glass in chapter one. The point is, I would never think of checking something like this.

This post in reply particularly annoyed me
But how hard was it to check if champaigne flute was really invented at that time? If you don't have time to check little details like that maybe you shouldn't use them unless you're absolutely sure they are historically accurate? (I'm not talking about deliberately sacrificing details to enhance plot like some authors of historical fiction do). That is, if it really matters to you and you don't want to alienate some readers that care about this sort of thing. If you feel that most of your readers want believable romance and don't care much about unimportant detail than it's another matter, of course

Give it a rest woman!!! Good grief. Should we expect writers to do research on cosmetic brushes and champagne flutes (which by the way, said poster spelled champagne wrong so she obviously didn't do her own "research") ??????

Earlier in a previous but very similar thread there was this little gem
But I guess I can't blame Kleypas or Quinn. They're very successful. I blame readers who buy their new wallpaper over their older, better work and vote for the new stuff in the polls over deeper works by other authors.

Who the fuck really cares(????) - and trust me - I don't often use that word unless I'm worked up - so you can tell I am. Why are the super technical readers even reading romance if it bugs them so much? Why not instead just check straight history books out of the library and read them to their hearts content? If the love story between the hero and heroine in a ROMANCE book isn't the prime reason for reading, then stay the hell away from it.
I did post a reply but that is one of the reasons I started a blog - so I could really let my feelings out here instead of reigning in my more annoyed reactions in a more public place :)
There's nothing wrong with being a technical reader although I think they risk the opportunity of getting into the 'feel' of the book. But these uber technical readers just annoy the hell out of me. I don't read romance to learn historical facts. I took history in high school - and may I do a quick pat on my back and say I aced it. History and English were the only two subjects I got marks in the 90's. I read it because I love it, because it takes me to a place I'll never go when I'm in the mood to 'travel'.
I remember when I first discovered the historical romance - how absolutely thrilled I was that history was being combined with really wonderful love stories. I was in the clouds. And I'm still there!
So to those fanatics who like to analyze a book to death on lack of absolute historical accuracy, stay the heck away and read straight history books.
And that's my rant for the day!!

'til later


meljean brook said...

I understand a reader wanting historical accuracy, but I'm also pretty forgiving. Some stuff, like dates or historical events, I don't give so much leeway on -- but there are just simply some things that you don't know that you don't know, so it would never occur to you to check them. I absolutely understand that.

It reminds me of something Lydia Joyce said about nightstands by beds -- that she used some in her books, and found out later that nightstands simply weren't in use during that time period. And I was like, "huh -- it never would have occurred to me, either" and even knowing now, it still wouldn't bother me to read it in another book, because it's a non-issue to me.

Some things, you know you've got to research, and other things you check just to make sure that what you thought was correct is true. But some things are always going to slip by, even if you research for months or years.

And to me, unless the plot somehow hinges on that champagne flute, that isn't nearly as egregious an error as, say, a zipper -- because we know that goblets and similar glasses existed, have references and paintings that include them ... so it's a believable jump to a champagne flute. It's a mistake, but not something that is COMPLETELY out there.

Carolyn Jean said...

Great post!

I totally understand your feelings, and I agree with Meljean, too. I once worked on a children's history book, and I have to say, it is NOT easy to find out things like when the champagne flute was invented.

I have always respected anybody who writes historicals, because I'm sure you're constantly checking on details. I'm sure you have to check things with every new scene you create. Oh, I would become so impatient!

As somebody who writes stories set in the near future, I have it easy. And when I read historicals, obviously I don't want to be jarred out of the fictional dream by ye old cobbler checking his digital watch or whatever, but beyond that, it's about the believability of the characters and emotions.

Marg said...

That's the kind of thing that I would never even think to check myself, and if I was totally engrossed in the story I wouldn't notice anyway!

Tumperkin said...

Kristie - I'm with you on this. There is a big difference between glaring historical anachronisms (which do bother me sometimes, I'll admit) and tiny nitpicks like the champagne flute example. The acid test is whether the detail in question pulls the reader up short to the extent that they are pulled out of the story itself. Only someone with a doctorate in Victorian glassware would be bothered by the detail about champagne flutes.

katiebabs said...

As long as they aren't talking slang like "Yo" "What up girlfriend! Hey hommie" And high five each other, then I am okay with that. But COME ON! It is fantasy after all.
I don't mind admiting this, but without historical romance I wouldn't know what a corset, petticote, cravat, Ton or settee is.
All this over a champagne flute?!
I also find it funny how some readers moan over the amount of sex between the rakish hero and the innocent unmarried heroine because it just wasn't done back then! Bookstores have a nice section call NON-FICTION for historical facts.
The horror! Gag me with a flute.

Rosie said...

I haven't gone and read any of the threads but from your post I have to say what bothers me is the condescension in the reader's tone and comments. Do we really think there are writers putting things like champagne flutes in their stories to wave a red flag in someone's face as if to say "Find THAT faulty fact, bitch!"

All I can say is, "C'mon!" Besides there are certainly enough dry tomes of history out there for people to read for factual accuracy.

A final thought, I concur with Tumperkin's comment, "There is a big difference between glaring historical anachronisms (which do bother me sometimes, I'll admit) and tiny nitpicks like the champagne flute example."

Wendy said...

I'm very much an emotional reader (so says the girl with the college history degree). The only time I start to nitpick the historical stuff is when the story as a whole isn't working for me. The hero's a jackass, the heroine's an idiot and there's plot holes a-plenty.

Language and dialogue are especially tricky. I've read many a historical romance and thought, "No way would they say that word back in 1812" only to be proven wrong once I've checked my handy etymology dictionary. So the long and the short of it? Sometimes we readers aren't as smart as we think we are....

Just sayin'

Lone Chatelaine said...

Yep, I'm with you. I have a theory that those super critical people are really not people that enjoy romance, but rather people who like to make fun of other's happiness in life and use it for intellectual fodder, ridiculing it to make themselves feel superior.

In short, they're very inadequate people in their real life and have to resort to online bullying to feel a bit of power.

It's rather pathetic, really.

Dev said...

I'm going to have to agree with you on this one, Kristie. I'm an artistic reader also ~ as long as the characters grab me, I'm pretty forgiving, as long as they're given a story worthy of them.

C2 said...

Yup - unless it's a glaring historical error, I don't care as long as the feel is there.

I'm sure we all have little things that hit us and pull us out of the story - please don't have a Regency lord say "okay" to anyone! And have chocolate (as in candy) in the right era, too. ;-) But mostly I can go with the flow, if the story is well written.

Kristie (J) said...

Meljean: That's it - there are so many non-issues for me when reading a good love story. If authors are expected to research all the tiny minutia of facts for one or two sentences - they would never get the book finished!!

Carolyn Jean: Thanks! Although I did write it in a moment of annoyance, I did mean it. It is about the believability of the characters isn't not - not so much the other factors. While accuracy is important, I don't think getting a few basically inconsequential things wrong is a big deal.

Marg: Many of the things some readers get annoyed with completely slip by me - and I much prefer to keep it that way :)

Tumperkin: I can get pulled out of the story with incorrect details if the story isn't engaging me that much, but if it is - why allow myself to be pulled out by something that, in my opinion, isn't all that important. While I realize everyone has a different threshold as to what may pull them out - some do go to extremes I think.

Katiebabs: I've learned so much about the time periods through reading romance too. And I think most authors are very conscientious about trying to get it write - just like I am about spelling things write - but sometimes they may miss something small - and so what really if the story is very good.

Rosie: there is a lot of condescension on that thread - and it bugs the heck out of me! I suppose I shouldn't have kept reading, but it just got to me today. Here is an author trying to explain something and she's jumped all over for not researching every last tiny single little detail. Arrrggghhh - get a life I wanted to say to some of them.

Wendy: LOL. I must say I love it when I see a reader complaining bout something they rather smugly think is rather and then the author comes back and proves them wrong.

Lone Chatelaine: Hello - and welcome. You caught me in an annoyed mood :) I don't blame some of them for wanting historical accurateness - but other do seem to engage somewhat in bullying don't they? Or an attitude of superiority - certainly that third quote I posted. I must admit to really seeing red when I read that one! She blames readers who buy wallpaper (and who's to say they are anyway) over older better work. Well I blame her for being a puffed up supercilious twit. There! I said it and I won't take it back! I can offer up an insult here - it's my place!

Dev: Yep - My feelings exactly!

Kristie (J) said...

C2 - having a hero say OK is over the top *g* and would pull me out. I wouldn't have thought about chocolate though, *lol* Whatever would those poor women done without chocolate to get them through those rough days? It's the STORY that's important to me. There is a little mini poll in the original thread though about what is more important, the romance or historical accuracy - and the romance is ahead.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm with Tumperkin, too. The glaring anachronisms can bug me. But the use of "champagne" flutes? Not a problem.

I'm reminded of a thread a while ago on AAR where someone complained about an "inaccurate" historical detail. A couple of readers came back with proof that the person complaining was wrong! Food for thought regarding historical accuracy.
Jane A.

Misty G said...

I'm not such a stickler on accuracy, though an attempt to at least use the general time period correctly doesn't hurt. I don't care about when certain things were made, but I do get a little annoyed when the language used in a historical is not even close to the time period being written. A good example would be any Kenley MacGregor book.

The reverse of that is when the author goes overboard in using language that we are supposed to believe comes from a certain historical period. Like when Julie Garwood uses the word "laird" every other sentence.

I think there is a happy medium somewhere.

I've never read any historical romances for accuracy, but I've picked up a few things that were accurate along the way. It even gave me a B+ for my Senior Seminar course in college.

I was the only one who knew what a serf was out of the whole class, and it was all because I read The Wolf and The Could have gotten an A if I hadn't of ditched half the semester.

shannon said...

I am a terribly nitpicky reader. Even in a book I am enjoying, sometimes I'll notice little details that seem off. But I am also more of a science fiction and fantasy reader who's been turned on to good romance very recently, so I don't read historicals that often. And honestly, where accuracy is concerned, I'm willing to let an author tell me whatever. Because if I wanted to read dry and boring historically accurate books, I'd do college homework.

nath said...

Great post Kristie! For me, I don't really care about those stuff. I have to admit, I really have difficulties identifying the different time periods. I mean, I've been reading historical romances recently, and 1500, 1700 and 1800 are looked the same to me ^^; So do I really care about champagne flutes and nightstands? no.

You know, authors have to choose. Do they want to focus more on the romance or on all the details? if the way of dressing and languages are accurate to me, then I'm okay with it.

Kristie(J) said...

Nath: unless they have the highest degree possible in British history, they will probably miss something - and even if they do they still might. So what do we as readers expect? For me, it's not something outrageously wrong like doing the waltz in 1736 or other such obvious things. And I have learned quite a bit of history from reading historical romance - but I see that as a bonus.

Shannon: As I hope I made clear, there's nothing wrong with technical readers :) - they are the other side of the coin and just as important. They help keep a balance I think. It's when they get carried away and give off this aura of superiority that somehow they are 'better' readers because they are more concerned with the 'historical accuracy' down to the nth degree that I find the uber ones insufferable. Being a 'technical' reader, you seem to have the right attitude :)

Misty: Hey You - good to 'see' you!! And welcome back.
And ya - some authors I've given up on myself because stuff about their historicals gets to me - Kinley McGregor is one of them. I gave up on her when I tried reading a book where the heroine sounded more like a pacifist hippie from the 60's who gave the warrior hero grief about being.... a warrior and wanted him to write a song for her instead - that one was a wallbanger and the last straw - which was a pity because some of her earlier books under McKinley were keepers for me. So there is a line even this artisitc reader will draw - but a writer can go pretty far with me - and again that points to the fact that we all have a different tolerant zone for errors. But I think any writer of historicals worth their salt, DO do a lot of research somer A LOT of it, and if they miss something small - hey they are human.

Jane A: I kind of remember that incident too. I don't exactly remember who the author was or what the inaccuracy was exactly - but I know I got quite a kick out of the uber technical reader being proven wrong.

Holly said...

Fabulous rant, Kristie. I have to agree with you, unless it's a hugely glaring error (like a car being driven in the 1500's) I don't really notice it.

I do remember reading a novel once where men were fighting with guns in the late 1400's. I said, "MM, did they even HAVE guns back then? That really pisses me off" and he said, "Holly, they've had guns forever. Go look it up" I did and guess what? *I* was wrong. LOL

But I do think language and clothing are way more important than champagne flutes. Whoever it was that said Kinley MacGregor is a good example is exactly right. She drives me insane with her modern day speak. Ugh.

ReneeW said...

Great rant, Kristie. I agree with you completely. What really gets to me is the condescending tone of the poster. I care more about the accuracy of the language and dialog than I do about glasses and nightstands. Most people would not know little nitpicky details and unless it's something really obvious wouldn't care. Some people just like to show off and act superior with their so-called smarts.

sula said...

well, you know how I feel about this, kristie, as we've had this discussion. lol. I like my books to feel authentic, but as long as the writing is good, the plot is tight and the characters make me CARE about them, I can overlook some liberties with the details.

What really bugs me is the condescending tone towards fellow readers. Like those of us who don't pay attention to the minutae or who buy (gasp) Kleypas or Ashworth or whomever are part of the unwashed horde, contributing to the intellectual decline of the romance genre. Gimme a break! I have to put up with snooty attitudes enough from people outside the genre, why the heck would I want to get that grief from so-called fellow readers?!?

meh. Anyways, I'm just going to go enjoy my historically-innacurate romance novels anyways and spend my dollars however the hell I want.

Lori said...

I agree, Kristie. Although grammatical errors and typos bug the living daylights out of me, something like that would never have bothered me unless it was a total glaring error like many listed above (Yo, hommie! and the like). I'm pretty forgiving as a reader, I just want to be entertained. But without typos, because I'm anal, too. *g*

Shannon C. said...

Bwahaha. I read that Kinley MacGregor book. I thought the heroine had a point, but that's because I'd have been a dirty hippie if I'd been born a few generations earlier. But I think I lost interest in the story before it degenerated into a musical.

Anyway, yeah, I'm just contrary, and I also don't know enough about history to be a good technical reader. I'm just, well, the type of person who is seriously considering taking a literary criticism class for fun. I know, that makes me far too odd for words.

Chantal said...

OMG, that thread was one of the most annoying things I have ever read at AAR. I can't believe how anal they are. You are so right, go read a non fiction history book if you are so worried about %100 accuracy. Even then you wont find it.


What floored me the most were the ones who were going back and forth with the actual authors in the thread. Talk about high horses. I thought the authors handled it great. A lot better than the readers did, thats for sure.

Chantal said...

K, I just read all the replies (I'm really late here, lol)
Condescending is the perfect word for those who were so all mighty in that thread.