Howdy and happy Wednesday Silverline Family! No, your notifications did not glitch out on you, this one is posted a day late. Turns out hard drive crashes are not great for maintaining digital content scheduling. Barring anymore catastrophic tech errors, this is the new craft post this week. I managed to get a hold of the writing/creator of upcoming Action-Espinoge thriller Wolf Hunter and the associate editor at Silverline. . . Me . . . It’s me. After over a year of craft entries from Silverline creators all around the world, I figured I’d put my two cents in.
History and Questions to Ask Yourself
Writing something set in real history poses a unique set of challenges. Those challenges can seem especially daunting if the setting is a period that is well documented. There’s a lot of details that are known hard facts. History enthusiasts also try to know as many of these facts as they can in regards to their favorite periods. It’s part of the fun, I’m one of those people too. The issue comes in balancing a story of fiction rooted in that history. To make a story that I wanted to write both as a spy nerd and as a history buff, I have to ask myself a lot of questions. These questions guided me to break the facts and rules in the right way.
I’m not saying you need to sell the part of the story of fiction as 100% truth, you just need to do enough to allow the reader to join with you in asking “What if?”
Is this something you need to worry about? Well, yes but maybe for not the reasons you’d think. Armchair historians aren’t going to nitpick your story simply because you took liberties. They’re going to nitpick it because the story is bad and they lost interest. The elements of your story that are fiction can’t just exist outside the history the makes up the rest of the setting.
To develop good fiction, I try to develop good characters. Good characters have history. Your characters are living breathing people in your story. They would have also impacted or be impacted by the world outside the story.
To develop the fiction in Wolf Hunter, I had to ask a series of questions to understand who my characters are. I needed to know who they were in the world during World War 2.
In a war story, that might seem a bit straightforward. What factions (if any) do they have allegiance to and what is their role in the war? But I still had to look at what politics looked like before the war. Who would go where to do what? How did people end up where they are now and thinking the way they do? What events would impact their philosophy? What were the major schools of thought in the world during this period?
Understanding the facts of history helps you skirt around them in just the right way, finding the way you need to write the story. Giving yourself the perimeter of operating within the facts, besides where you have broken them, also adds another dimension to the story and will force you to get very creative and smart with your writing and editing. In addition, it adds another layer of interest for the reader who likes historical accuracy in their fiction.
What I did for Wolf Hunter, to find the right place to skirt around the facts, is look for areas of that era that were less documented than others. I challenged myself to match up the details as much as I could to the actual records, but for these core conflicts it exists in an area where I can ask myself “What if my characters existed here?” and hope the reader asks the same question.
Then I researched the other events related to this central event that were better documented as well as other notable dates that same year. This created the second challenge, weaving the elements that were my creation into a life that existed within these events. It may seem like a lot to dig into, but even just a brief overview will give you a place to start distilling down your character’s essence.