Many years ago I heard a talk by an author (whose name I have sadly forgotten!) who spent years researching every novel to the extent that to get one book right she actually trained as a pilot. While this struck me as very worthy, I felt (and hoped) there must be an easier way to write a book . The obvious answer to follow the precept ‘write what you know’, although this has to be interpreted carefully. Fiction would be a dull old place without fantasy, sci-fi and the exploration of all the wild places of the world (or of the soul) that we don’t encounter every day. Likewise the life of a writer. Imagination, after all, is the name of the game (as a writer friend reminds me here) .
But back to the point. Having launched myself at a historical subject, I’m find myself in unexpected sympathy with that pilot author. I do know that in fiction, historical or otherwise, the story is the thing, and technical or period detail is also secondary to the structure and charcterisation. When my very first heroine bumped up against the sexual mores of sixteenth century France, I like to think I did just enough groundwork to provide a convincing plot strand without getting too bogged down in the goings on in Paris of 1654.
But that was then. Right now I’m so much happier immersing myself in research (notorious delaying tactic of reluctant novelists) than in devising fiction, that I’ve decided to write a non-fiction article on the topic and see where that goes. If nothing else this will be a good way of synthesising the knowledge I’ve gained, and maybe afterwards I’ll feel able to lay all the research aside (as recommended by the experts!) and let the story take flight. If it doesn’t find a publisher, it will probably appear before too long on this site, so watch this space.
Onwards and upwards? If all else fails, maybe I could train as a pilot.
2 thoughts on “Historical hysterical”
The lady who trained as a pilot reminds me of Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. He had to play a man who had been awake for three nights and so, being a method actor, he too stayed awake to which Laurence Olivier said, ‘Try acting, dear boy.’ I wonder if Olivier would have said to that author, ‘Try imagination, dear lady.’
Having said that, I can get absorbed in research too. Writing an article sounds like a good idea, a bit like dumping baggage.
Love the Olivier quote! Yes, dumping baggage perhaps, but I think writng down ‘the facts’ is also a good way of embedding them. Like writing a back story that will one day be ditched, but hopefully still show through.