This is a difficult issue for anyone who writes anything historical…
Probably unsurprisingly given where my writing of late comes down on the historical spectrum, that Instagram post got my attention. Some of those “hate” tweets are possibly just bots or disinformationists trying to s-it stir. But some are likely, though, genuinely ignorant people who thought they knew the Declaration because perhaps they knew a line or two, or they even confused it with the Constitution (American educators fight an endless battle with students who confuse the Declaration with the Constitution), and it turns out they did not know it nearly as well as they imagined they had.
That ignorance about the Declaration is in its way an example of what historical authors must bear in mind. We can never be sure about the depth of historical knowledge readers may have upon opening our book. Some of them are probably well-versed (and indeed they may know even more on at least some aspects of what you as the author have written), while others will definitely know less and perhaps much less.
That is a problem. As the author, you don’t want always to be too “introductory” because you will annoy those who do know already. Yet you also don’t want to baffle and perhaps lose those who may not know very much.
About all you can do is tell yourself to let the story unfold and go with your instincts:
For instance, we see them in standard history books.
Why not have them in fiction, too?
Thus I like now and then using “journal entries” (as above) and “letters” as a means to “background fact drop” and scene set.
And then there is the weaving of actual history into the fiction within the narrative story itself, which is much of what I do. There is a lot of confusion I feel out there about what constitutes historical fiction. To me, “historical ficton” is when actual history plays a core part in the development of the story, whereas a “costume drama”/ “period piece” is merely fiction set in another time while events outside of the fictional characters play only little or no part in the tale.
I refuse to assume readers cannot (or do not wish to) learn. If anyone learns anything from what they read of the writing, I feel I have accomplished something worthwhile. For that is where YOU as an author may make a positive and lasting good impression.
Or, at least, uh, you hope you do.
* * *
Lastly, on another, possibly related, authoring issue. I don’t know if you ever have, but I signed up for an author’s newsletter (by an author I like). I have resisted the idea of publishing one myself, but I have long felt I should not 100 percent discount the idea because, after all, I did not know what an author actually writes in one.
Now, I do. I was emailed my first yesterday. I discovered that an author newsletter… is really just a blog post or two or three strung together and formatted into an email.
From my perspective, that is hardly necessary for you to receive. You are here, aren’t you? And you probably don’t need yet ANOTHER email (that is going to be pretty much what you read here anyway).
Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂