05 August 2006

Historical Fiction plot

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 writers uncover lots and lots of fascinating tidbits. One nugget leads to another which leads to the next. The more we find, the more we want to weave into the story.

Today's consultation served as a prime example of when not to use historical facts and details.

Rule of thumb: If historical facts and/or details serve to deepen and inform the story itself ~ meaning either the dramatic action plot, or the character emotional development plot, or the thematic significance plot, or all three at once ~ use them.

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.