How can I incorporate elements of another culture without appearing fake to people who know that culture better than I do?
For example, in one of my stories, I want to use elements of the Irish Freedom movement, known as “Sinn Féin”. I am not using it directly by that name, but under a slightly-different name. I’m hoping that this minor misdirection will buy me some grace from readers who know the real thing, when they spot inconsistencies that are bound to crop up.
I suppose the “due diligence” would be to do deep research into Ireland’s history, language and people. But I only have so much time. How can I use the elements from the culture that really relate to my story without being concerned about tripping up my readers on minor points?
Historical fiction is tough to write. Unless you witnessed the times and events yourself, you have to rely on the testimonies of others, whether in books, recordings, or personal interviews.
Nothing replaces research. You need to read books about your topic. You need to interview the experts. Often, it is helpful to visit the pertinent locations and walk the roads and countryside, feel the atmosphere, smell the odors, and talk to the locals.
For Circles of Seven, I read several books about the legends of King Arthur, and I visited the Arthurian historical sites in England. While I was there, I interviewed an expert on the mysteries of Avalon associated with the Glastonbury Tor. The information I gathered was invaluable.
When you finish a draft, ask an expert in the field to read crucial excerpts. People who love their pet topics are usually glad to help out.
If you aren’t sure that the details are correct, then it is better to write around them than to get them wrong. Still, the method you are devising might work, that is, changing the name of the movement, but it could look like a dodge to readers who are familiar with the topic.
In short, I would try to stay true to the historical event by doing as much research as possible and write around details I’m not sure about.
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Good advice, Mr. Davis!