Saturday, November 21, 2009

Banquo's Son, historical accuracy and plagerism

Dianne Brown, in her Here Comes Another Vital Moment, says something along of the lines of this (and I'm too lazy to go find her book and find the passage) 'Such is our predatory nature...we are word thieves; scene stealers' or something like that. Our job as writers is to turn it inside out and filter it back to the world through our own unique lens.

This whole situation with Witi has given me much pause for thought because right now I'm having to do a shite lot of reading about really tedious things to do with 11th Century shipping and battles and religious ceremonies.

On the one hand, I don't want people criticising me for being historically wrong. (A few have already tried but they are wrong, not me, so I'm nonplussed about their erroneous assumptions) but that I might INADVERTENTLY incorporate someone else's phrase into my narrative without realising that it had become part of my psyche, is a huge stress.

People criticise me for using words not used in 11th C even though I said I was using 17th C words. They said some of the phrases are ‘too modern’ yet the ones they’ve quoted have come directly from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and 12th Night.

What I’m saying here, I think, and as I said on Beattie’s Blog, I am disinclined to join the others who have so quickly rallied to throw stones at a man who’s novel Whanau was the first ever non children’s book I read as a child. (My step-brother won it as a school prize). Here was a narrative which told my story with all it’s glory and heartache and laughter and tears and violence.

Sad for him. And sad that people have been so horrible and unforgiving. Whoops – stuff up. Could happen to any of us. All writers of historical fiction could get caught out. Me. Or Jones. Or Alterio. Could. Shouldn’t but it might so we all have to be careful.

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