Why is setting important to historical fiction?

Why do we read? We read to gain knowledge, find advice and counsel, build self-awareness, develop motivation and strength, be entertained, create hope, seek escape or regeneration. We read to understand who we are and what we might become. We read to quiet our souls. We read to comprehend humanity, to build empathy for the experiences of others, to understand community and friendship, to appreciate how to live and die.

Pew Research Center poll asked readers what they like most about reading. In that poll, 26% mentioned learning, gaining knowledge and discovering information, 15% chose escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and the enjoyment of imagination. 12% read primarily for entertainment value including “the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.” Others mentioned relaxation, quiet, spiritual and personal enrichment, and expanding their world view.

So where then does setting come into play? A story will clang if the setting doesn’t ring true. You might argue that without an authentic and richly imagined historical setting, readers will have difficulty achieving any of the above objectives of fiction.

In three separate surveys of reading habits and preferences (check the Reader Surveys tab on this blog), the top three reasons for reading historical fiction are: (1) to bring the past to life, appreciating how people lived and coped in very different times, (2) because it’s a great story, and (3) to understand and learn about historical periods without reading non-fiction.

How can authors bring the past to life without exploring modes of travel, the circumstances of daily life, or the religious beliefs of the time? How can readers learn about a particular time period without seeing the characters of the novel confronting the conflicts and challenges of that era? How can a character’s emotions be relevant for today without appreciating the values and customs or the restrictions of yesterday?

Setting considers all of these and so much more. Without an authentic living and breathing setting, a work of historical fiction fails.

This is the second post on setting. The first post Tips on Setting in Historical Fiction can be found here. Next we explore the many ingredients of setting.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome! Please use the comments to add to this discussion.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers on reading

I’ve dug into responses from readers on the topic of why they are reading more or less than in the past. A little over 1000 people chose to comment on the topic. So here’s the original chart and a new chart showing reasons.

Are you reading more or fewer books than in the past:

Reasons for a change in reading habits:

By way of explanation (start at the top of chart and work clockwise):

  • Book Club – a number of readers said they are reading more because they’ve joined a book club.
  • E-books are easier – many readers are reading more because of e-readers AND audio books.  A number of readers say they love audio books because they can read while doing something else.
  • Fewer good books – some read less because they find fewer good books to choose from
  • Life changes – sadly, some of these are readers are experiencing health problems that prevent them from reading as much as they did in the past.
  • More social media – these are readers who are spending time on social media instead of reading books.
  • More time/Retirement – relatively self explanatory except to say that many readers have more time because their children are getting older 🙂
  • Other options – these are readers who mentioned doing other activities that have displaced reading in the way they spend their time.
  • Review books – a number of readers are reviewing books and/or have started their own book blog and hence are reading more.
  • SM gives ideas – some readers mentioned social media facilitates reading as a source of book related information and recommendations
  • Too busy – many readers cite jobs and young children as a reason their reading is less than in the past

I don’t think there are too many surprises here although it’s interesting to see them categorized.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

Why do people read fiction?

The 2018 Reader Survey asked participants why they read fiction. Several answers were proposed along with an invitation to comment. With well over 1800 responses, the results below show the percentages of those who chose ‘always’ or ‘frequently’ for each given option.

And below are a sampling of the comments people added:

I don’t like the term ‘escapism’ when referring to reading – to me it cheapens the experience on behalf of the reader. To an extent, I like to be entertained especially if I’m reading something lighter in context but I never read to simply ‘pass the time’. I like getting caught inside the shoes and heart of the characters, feeling captured by the timescape and exiting feeling as if I had ‘lived the life’ I had just read.

I just want to highlight “understand the circumstances of others.” Reading has let me be the fly on the wall in places I would never be able to go. It has exposed me to different cultures, lands, and time periods.

I love to read fiction because it’s what I enjoy. It’s something that I can get lost in and forget for awhile.

Reading is never a way to pass the time; it’s a way I spend my time. If I’m bored, it’s because I don’t have a good book to read.

Reading forms part of my life: I cannot imagine a day without a book.

I think reading is like breathing to me….not a choice….it’s a necessity.

I read to do reality checks on official narratives. How things really work versus institutional reporting. Reading widely is a kind of reality check.

Reading about other cultures helps us to understand ourselves better, and fosters deeper empathy.

To experience situations and lifestyles that are different from my own life.

To be transported to other times, places, politics, and selves. To be ‘other’.

To broaden my horizons and perspectives. To broaden my vocabulary and thus communication skills. To enhance my imagination.

If you haven’t taken the survey, here’s the link. And please share the link on your favourite social media https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/68HL6F2 .

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.