by Ron Estrada
As I write this, I’m watching Vikings via the magic of Hulu, the binge watching hub of the modern world. I’ve watched a few of these historical fiction TV series, and while I cannot vouch for their historical accuracy, I can vouch for their entertainment value.
The writers of these shows have done what any good writer would do, historical or otherwise. Take a piece of what is fact and insert a bit of fiction into it. This is how we can “steal” a great segment of our story, all that bothersome background and setting. The writers of these TV shows did just that. We can, therefore, justify borrowing our settings from the TV show writers who have done all the hard work already.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You still have to do your research. I wouldn’t dare to write a novel about Vikings based on one TV show. The books I read and websites I visit provide me the depth of knowledge to write with confidence. And if you write with confidence, your readers will pick up on it.
The purpose of the TV historicals is to fill in those imagery gaps that plague any author writing about a place or time which we’ve never visited. How do we know the TV writers got it right? We don’t. Hopefully, our own research will help make those corrections.
We must remember, also, that we are not claiming to be historians. We try hard to get it right, but we are storytellers first. Tellers of fiction. It’s our job to tell a compelling story. My hope, and the hope of all the historical fiction writers I know, is that our readers will be inspired to dig deeper. Our books are nothing more that a catalyst toward a deep appreciation for history. Our readers will appreciate that gentle nudge and hold no grudge when they find out we got some minor detail wrong.
So steal away. Take advantage of the wonder of modern cinema. Maybe the settings, clothing, and speech aren’t perfect, but I can vouch for this: I’d like to learn more about Vikings as of right now. And for that thirst, I am grateful for the writers of this TV show.