The following is an entry from my unpublished book 'A King's Adviser'. The story is about Daniel (from the Bible)'s life. Will you read this then read on to see what I'm really asking?
King Belshazzar could do nothing but stare at the wall, awestruck. It was surely all of the wine he had consumed that had caused him to see this. Yes, surely. Yet, the Jews never consumed enough wine to become drunk,and Daniel could see it. Belshazzar rubbed his eyes intently, and looked again. Words were still written on the wall despite his eye-rubbing. They seemed to have been written by fire itself; the letters were burnt into the stone as surely as he Was the King of Persia. What did it mean? Who's hand, seeming to glow with the light of the Heavens, had written those words there? He shivered, unconscious that he had done so.Still shivering with fright, Belshazzar turned to look at Daniel."M-my father t-trusted you with his l-life, and now I will trust you with this d-daunting
Now, what I really want to know is that by using the style of writing you read above, can a writer turn a story that almost everyone knows into an interesting bestseller? By adding in details and making the story come to life I think that it's possible. The only downfall is that almost everyone knows the outcome of the story. (sigh)
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited March 25, 2009).]
I don't remember the title of the book, but as a kid (probably about 11?) I read a kids novel (the title I forget) which was effectively the story of Noah's ark, but with a few twists (like, unicorns) that didn't undermine the original narrative but made it very entertaining (at least, for the intended children's/YA audience).
Giving a new perspective, insight or speculative element to an old story is, to my understanding, the whole point of the historical fiction genre.
In working on a historical novel, where known factors are incorporated, I found that my readers didn't care for historical accuracy, in names, in facts, or events. That prompted me to use what is known without making it known. And then the story opened up and became less rigidly bound to its accepted, expected parameters. What a freeing experience.
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While it's absolutely true that no one should read historical fiction as if they're reading history . . . it's also true that if a person is well-versed in the time period, he will want, even demand, as much historical accuracy as possible. That's how I am whenever I read a historical novel set in the Middle Ages.
Of course, any reader of historical fiction will allow for some manipulation. Ken Follett makes the fictional villain of his incredible THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH present at the murder of Thomas Becket. I can live with that, since everything else is so accurate.
But slight manipulation for the sake of the plot is fundamentally different from sloppy work.
By the way, if you're really interested in this project, you may want to read OSC's Women of Genesis novels.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Mark Twain 1889. Gunpowder, Gatling guns, and electrified fences in Medieval England, fictional time travel predating H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895) by six years.
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I think a reader will read your fictionalized account, despite knowing the ending, if it's a story that interests her and if there's a good possibility that your version will provide fresh insights of significance. I think the details would have to be of the "Yeah, I never thought of that" variety, and credible, not simple details that anyone could think of knowing the story and something of the time it's set in.
I very much enjoyed "The Devil in the White City" for its historically accurate portrayal of Chicago in the late 19th century. It brought life to events one could read about in a plain history book, by showing us how they might have felt to key figures involved.
If the author is taking an account from the Bible and 'filling out' the story, then I want the story to stick as closely to the Bible as possible were the details are given in the Bible. Actually, I guess that's true for me regarding all historical fiction: if some of your characters are well-known historical personages and we know from accounts where they were and what they were doing at certain times, I want the fictional story to stay consistent with that (unless it's of the alternate history genre).
I read historical fiction because I want to see the authors take on why the people acted the way they did--what they were thinking and feeling (i.e. bringing history alive). I know everyone's not such a stickler, but it pulls me out of the book if the author repeatedly makes a historical error--either in the time and place of a known historical figure or in a specific detail about the time period (like repeatedly offering tea to a guest when tea wasn't available there at that time). I then find it difficult to maintain my belief in the unknown details the author is filling in.
So as long as you're careful to stay true to the Biblical account of Daniel and the details we know about the time period, then a story like yours would be interesting to me.
According to several of my inspirational sources, not least of which includes Gustav Freytag, historical fiction can all too often be too much history and not enough art. Accuracy emphasized above authentic imitation is a recurring fault remarked upon by many critical readers of historical narratives.
In Mark Twain's version of King Arthur's court is an admirable, artful reimagining of a sacred text, itself artful reimaginings of history: Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae c. 1136, translated in 1904 by Sebastian Evans, Histories of the Kings of Britain. Embedded in the Historia is, Vita Merlini, The Life of Merlin. The entire translation text of the Historia is available at the site linked below the citation.
"Geoffrey of Monmouth's Histories of the Kings of Britain was a medieval attempt to forge a national epic for the British people, shortly after the Norman conquest. Geoffrey invented a mythical back-history for the Britons, starting, as Virgil did, with a fugitive from the sack of Troy, named Brute or Brutus. The Histories includes many traditional tales, particularly a telling of the story of King Lear (who was originally a Celtic God, Lyr). He also inserts actual historical events such as Caesar's invasion of Britain.
"Geoffrey of Monmouth is a primary source for the Arthurian legends, one of the first published accounts. His Arthur has few of the romantic, mystical and miraculous motifs of later versions. Notably missing are the Round Table, the Grail, Guinevere's affair with Lancelot, Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, and the final journey to Avalon. Geoffrey's Arthur is a national hero who unites a huge empire by the sword, and goes toe-to-toe with the Roman Empire. The translator speculates in the Epilogue that Arthur is meant to be an allegorical representation of King Henry I." http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/gem/index.htm
I think reading both Twain's and Geoffrey's Arthurian accounts and comparing them to their factual, historical origins might demonstrate eminently emulatable methods for reimagining other sacred texts.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited March 25, 2009).]
The easy route would be to write this account from a known character. A more challenging route would be to create a character that would be present at such a historical account and run the story through the POV of that character. Did the events create an impact tht changed the POV character? Perhaps changed his beleif in Jehova? Saw his people for the fools they were? Escaped death himself, saved his family or whatever.
The point is they know how the Book Of Daniel ends, yes, but they would not know the fate of a new POV character's story and how that would end. That alone would fuel interest for some people.
That is my two cents and I am sure it is worth every penny!
[This message has been edited by cdmarshall (edited March 25, 2009).]
cdmarshall--that's a good point, having a new character. The movie Titanic used that for instance. We all knew the boat was going to sink, but we didn't know if Jack would live (or maybe we did, I'm not entirely sure, but the point still stands).
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I have considered writing "Historical Educational Fiction" That is well research historical fiction told from the point fo veiw of a fictional character including accurate and historical accounts of day to day life (so much as could still be made interesting with my skills)
You can also try "Alternate Historical Fiction" I used to shelve books and there was one guy who had won considerable acclaim for writing alternative history, "what if the roman empire never fell?" "howsabout the american civil war, with mages adn wizards instead?" etc... I don;t recall his name if anyone knows?
Also Orson Scott Card used the Book of Mormon as a guidline for a sereis of his once also. If you have read the book of mormon and even just read the preliminary fo his books you can see the similarities. Even though he does alter it a little. IE a scifi setting instead of a historical one.
Dramatizing Bible stories/characters can certainly yield a workable novel. My guess is unless you emphasized some controversial aspect, you'll be fighting an uphill battle achieving bestseller status, unless you're looking soley withing the christian fiction genre.
It's just difficult to tell a compelling dramatic story when one side is hopelessly overmatched due to an omnipotent being's direct participation on the other side.
Your excerpt hints at what might be an interesting approach, tell the story from the perspective of the king rather than Daniel, make him fully human, and explore how he deals when forces he doesn't understand and can't control work against him. I would envision a slightly different approach than your excerpt where the king seems a bit too much of the cowardly heathen quailing before righteousness for my tastes.
It's doable, but difficult. It's not something I'd have the gumption to tackle unless I picked up the story and transported it to a setting where I had freedom to rearrange the details. Good luck.
This absolutely can be made to be a very interesting story.
You have picked an interesting event to dramatize. However it's also an extremely controversial one as well. There has been a great deal of debate about the exact identity of these characters. At this point quite a bit of information from many archeological sources has been decoded and the facts have become far more clear. Daniel appears to have simplified the details to retell events with less confusion. It is now pretty well established that despite Daniels over-simplification, Nebuchadnezzar was actually Belshazzar's grandfather, Belshazzar in fact being the oldest son of King Nabonidus who was married to Nebuchanezzar's daughter, Nitocris. Belshazzar was a coregent of his father King Nabonidus, the true legal King of Babylon. Apparently historical records show that Nabonidus spent the majority of his 17 year reign away from Babylon perusing the worship of the Moon god Sin in the oasis city of Tema. While it is true that Belshazzar was never the true legal King of Babylon, to the people around him he was as good as, since his father had bestowed the equivalent authority upon him in his own extensive absence. There is also quite a bit of evidence that King Nabonidus did return in 540 BCE to obstruct Cyrus from going into Babylon but was overwhelmed by superior Persian forces.
In your snippet you make an error in stating that Belshazzar was the king of Pesia. He was actually the coregent ruler of Babylon. The Persians were the enemies of Babylon and it was the Mede's and the Persians who overthrew the city that night by diverting the river and walking into the city virtually unopposed.
Of particular interest is the fact that Cyrus was named by name as the one who would overthrow Babylon over a hundred and fifty years before he was even born in Isaiah chapters 44 and 45 and in Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51, even giving extensive details as to how it would be done. This is something that the Babylonians almost certainly knew of and yet paid no heed, going as far as using the holy utensils dedicated to the Hebrew God to drink wine on that fateful night.
Thank you for pointing out my error in stating that Belshazzar was the king of Persia. One of my many loves is history and I cannot believe that I made that mistake. It was late when I posted this and I was in a rush. Thank you for your input.
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Check out Pretender by Piers Anthony. It follows a character through the fall of Babylon to Cyrus as best I remember. Either that or something else.
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