Choices in Historical Fiction
As an author, I have the opportunity to share a piece of the world with my readers. How the readers see and experience the world I create is based on the choices I make as an author. Which battles of WWII do they learn about? How do they see a mining town from 1865? What about a fictional future world where society as we know it crumbles to dust?
For today's inside view into my author's mind, I'd like to shed light on how I make those choices as I'm writing.
First of all, in historical fiction, I make some very deliberate decisions about which pieces of history I include. I purposely leave some pieces or details of the real story out for a few reasons.
First, I have a little more liberty to do what I need with my characters in order to most optimally share the pieces of the Gospel my story highlights. Second, I want my readers to be able to sit in the time period I'm describing and experience the world for a bit. As a reader, I try to assimilate all the details provided by the author, and honestly, I sometimes get lost in the nitty gritty of historical fiction. I try to give enough detail to transport the reader to the era, but not get totally lost in language or drown in details that don't have to be there and actually interrupt the flow of the story. Third, I never want a reader to so closely identify with a story that they say, "I wonder if that was my great grandpa...". For example, for my latest novel "From Across the Sea", I purposely excluded the details of my main character's bombing group and squadron during WWII. I didn't want to be stuck with only one bomb group's experiences because I wanted my readers to see what happened across the board to highlight the courage of all the men in the Eighth Air Force.
Another choice I've made as an author is to always write fictional people. I purposely choose names that I believe (to the best of my knowledge) were not real people doing the activities I describe during the time periods I'm writing in because I don't want to accidentally ascribe words or behaviors to a real person who lived and perhaps dishonor their memory. It gets tricky at times, but I always try to opt for making up names and placing fictional characters into real historical situations so that I can have the freedom to have them interact with history in a way that serves my purpose to share the grace of God.
Just thought you'd like to see some insight into my choices as an author, especially for historical fiction! My dystopian novel, "Defiant", was super easy to make choices for... I simply imagined a world torn apart by an imaginary war and described it and allowed my characters to fight for their lives and their faith! Much easier than hours upon hours of research!