26 January 2011
Taming Historical Fiction
Fiction is an interesting animal to tame when one is writing a work that has to do with true historical times. Creating a compelling story involving historical information is a challenge because research is an intricate part of the process.
Some of the research falls into what is referred to as the back story. In my series of books, The Conspiracy Gods, some of the plot revolves around events during and after WWII. A character's particular behavior may be a result of these events. When the character references dates and people, the writer is giving the reader information to help understand a character's motivation, or trait, or outlook. It is essential that all references are completely accurate. A small percentage of all the factual data gathered might be all you use, but it is none the less crucial. This crucial material is what I am calling back story.
One must always assume that the reader is intelligent. The instant a reader realizes a named event, date, name, or location is incorrect, the author has lost the reader’s trust, and usually on a permanent basis
As authors, we can’t afford to alienate our readers for any reason. To show that we have done our homework and made the piece true to the time frame we are writing about is a huge responsibility. It is a sacred trust that must always be honored. We must show respect and consideration as we carefully weave our magic.
Research can be time-consuming and at times may make writing momentum slow down but it must be done. I, for one, happen to love doing research in all sorts of areas. My biggest problem is that one piece of research may lead me to another and yet another and suddenly I realize that I must leave off the incredibly fascinating journey I have discovered because it is not necessary to the particular book I am working on.
Occasionally I have joked that I would love to hire someone to do my research, but after a few minutes I take it back because for me, part of the fun of the creative process is the research. This practice of doing research helps me know that not only am I honoring my readers but I am improving my understanding of the world and the events that mold who and what we have become as a societal entity.
Enjoy each aspect of the writing process and go with the flow.