Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Historical Fiction

After several weeks of research and a lot of hours of discussion with Livia, today I sat down to write the outline for the first book in the new Western series we're doing, plus a very brief breakdown of Books 2 and 3. This series is set in a specific place at a specific time about which a great deal has been written. (I realize I'm being vague, but we haven't signed the contracts yet and I'm superstitious enough not to want to jinx anything.) The publisher wants the historical element in the books to be very strong, with a lot of historical characters and incidents. What we've been struggling with is how to mix in the fiction with the facts, and how much of each to have. My general rule for writing historical fiction has been to keep everything as accurate as possible. I may involve a fictional character in a historical event, but I try to describe things as they really happened, at least as much as possible given the reliability of the available research. When I have fictional events happening, I try not to do anything that directly contradicts history. In other words, maybe it didn't happen, but it could have. This project has been a challenge, but an enjoyable one. I've even been able to take some historical characters and use them as fictional protagonists, because their background is unknown and so is their ultimate fate. We know they were there, but we don't really know who they were or what happened to them. So in those cases I feel free to invent whatever I need to. Another thing I've noticed in writing historical fiction is that research books often disagree about what happened. In that case, I go with the version that seems the most likely to me.

The end result today was that I was able to get the outline done, although not without some pacing around and some more discussions with Livia, who came up with the angle I needed to make the whole thing work. Now all we have to do is write the book.

Tomorrow I'll be getting back to the series Western I'm writing. I need to get it wrapped up this weekend so I can move on to other things.

I'm reading Michael Crichton's novel PREY, about nanotechnology run amok. I'm not a big fan of Crichton's work. I haven't read any of his novels since THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, many many years ago. I saw the movie of JURASSIC PARK, which I didn't like very much, and THE 13TH WARRIOR, based on his novel EATERS OF THE DEAD, which I liked much better, one of the best films I've seen in recent years. A couple of years ago I tried to read TIMELINE but lost interest pretty quickly. PREY is okay so far, but I'm not convinced yet that I'll stick with it all the way through.


Unknown said...

Well, I guess I should have known that I wasn't the only person in the world who liked THE 13TH WARRIOR. There were several scenes in there that Robert E. Howard would have loved. Or so I thought at the time I saw it.

James Reasoner said...

Yeah, even most of the REHupans liked THE 13TH WARRIOR, and REHupans are notoriously hard to please about such things.