10 July 2013

Historical Fiction and Research

Authentic historical facts and details serve to ground the reader in another place and time. To find those just-right details, one must research. In researching, we uncover lots and lots of fascinating tidbits. One nugget leads to another which leads to the next. The more we find, the more tempted we are to add and weave all that gold into the story.

A plot consultation reveals a historical novel with an exciting external dramatic action plot that was bogged down in historical facts and details.

Rule of Thumb 
Use only the historical facts and details that serve to deepen and inform the story itself ~ meaning:
  • Dramatic action plot 
  • Character emotional development 
  • Thematic significance
and best, all three at once. (For help with any of these three major plot lines, follow the exercises in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.)

However, if you find yourself wanting to add those titillating tidbits because they are fascinating to you and thus, you reason, the reader will find them fascinating, too ~ wrong.

Whether a novel, short story, or screenplay, the story itself is all that matters. Even one unrelated or distantly related historical fact can dilute the story overall and will often confuse the reader.

Don't use historical facts because you can. Use what will enhance the story.