My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Tip for History Writers

Through my college years, I was very lucky to be able to take some interesting history courses as gen ed credits. One of the most unique ones was about gender and sexuality in medieval Europe. The books we were assigned to read were, for the most part, concise, easy to follow, and helpful. With history not being my strongest ability, I was worried that the books would leave me lost and confused. These fears quickly vanished, however, thanks to the authors who kept non-history-buffs like myself in mind when they were writing. Without a background in any medieval European history, I was still able to follow every sentence, every paragraph, and every chapter and gain an understanding of the material. It was exciting!

Now, in my spare time, I am reading a collection of essays about the connection between Harry Potter and history. It talks about ancient philosophers and the beginnings of Christianity. While I am fascinated by the idea that one of my favorite series might actually have a realistic basis, I am highly disappointed in this book. First of all, it sounds like most of the writers have barely even looked at a Harry Potter book, as they use quotes that don't apply and take things out of context that don't make sense otherwise. My poor fiance has had to put up with my outbursts as I complain about the inaccuracies involving the original text.
Another thing that bothers me is that the writers don't have a clue on how to relate to their audience. I keep trying to push through, but even within one essay, the author jumps from one time period to another, from one important historical figure to another and then back again, and from one idea to the next, without providing some way of connecting them. It seems like each new paragraph (or, sometimes, each new sentence) springs out of thin air. I really want to understand, so I keep pushing through, but I wonder how much more I could be learning if the writer would simply explain what he or she is talking about instead of dropping comments as if they were leaves in autumn.

After experiencing this dreadful novel, I have some advice to give to history writers. If your subject matter is bound to be popular (such as the HP one, which involves pop culture), please write so that the general population can understand you. This doesn't mean you have to "dumb it down" or talk down to us. It simply means that we need you to stick with one thought long enough for the reader to grasp what you are trying to say. If your subject matter is for more involved history buffs, then by all means, skip over the stuff that is common sense in that area. However, if it is not, then you must take the time to explain the more common elements of your topic.

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