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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beware Anachronisms

A writer friend of mine recently told me that one of her readers called to tell her she had mistakenly used a word in her historical novel that was not in usage in the particular place and time about which she wrote.  Of course, she was embarrassed.  We all would be.  Her anecdote put me in mind of a warning I included in my book, Writing Historical Fiction: Digital Age Advice.  It appears in chapter 3:

 Be wary of anachronisms.  Anachronisms place people, events and things in the wrong time. Would your character have a wrist watch in 1800?  Was Maine a state in 1820? How many prisoners did General Robert E. Lee take during the incident at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in 1859? (None. Lee was not yet a General in 1859; he was a Col.  Also, Harper’s Ferry was in Virginia in 1859.  West Virginia broke off and became a state in 1863, taking Harper’s Ferry with it. See how easy it is to make mistakes when doing historical research?)

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