Having stopped by Alianore’s blog this morning and enjoyed her post “Misinformation about Edward II,” it’s occurred to me that while there’s been plenty of advice on how to strive for accuracy in historical fiction, no one’s offered any advice on how to throw reality to the winds and distort facts with abandon. So without further ado, here’s some guidance for aspiring nonhistorical novelists (and for those who like to embellish nonfiction as well):
1) Question parentage at all times, and don’t be afraid to spread sexual slander. After all, most children are conceived out of public view, so who knows who was really present in someone’s bed? (Extra points if you can make the father someone who was dead or 1,000 miles away at the time of conception.)
2) Add or subtract a decade or so from a historical figure’s age, depending upon your needs. Not only can this be helpful with (1), it often opens up a variety of possibilities for enlivening your characters’ sex lives.
3) Not sure what caused a historical figure’s death? Make it murder, and be sure to lay the guilt at the feet of someone you don’t like.
4) Proof is for pedants and bores. If you haven’t got adequate facts to support an assertion, make it anyway.
5) Conspiracy theories are your best friends forever. In fact, those who prefer historical accuracy are really part of a vast conspiracy to keep people from learning the Real Truth.
6) Reanimate the dead. Just because someone died five years before an event or scene took place is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t include him in it. Especially if you can defame him while doing so.
7) If two people have the same name, this is your heaven-sent opportunity to freely confuse them with each other. If their parents didn’t want you doing this, they should have had the foresight to give the kid a different name.
8) If you’re unsure of a fact, by no means check it. Trust your instincts and run with it, particularly if the assertion could ruin a historical figure’s reputation.
9) If there is an innocent explanation and a sinister explanation for an event, the sinister explanation must prevail.
10) No historical figure must ever be given the benefit of the doubt about anything, unless he’s (a) your hero or (b) Richard III.
11) If you’re caught in an error by one of those cranky sorts who appreciate historical accuracy and meticulous research, blame your error on the bias of either male chroniclers, academic historians, or the victors, as the case might require.
12. If you can’t find any of the above to blame, keep repeating your error. Sooner or later, people will start to believe it, and your worries will be over.