Still Learning About Writing

Still Learning About Writing

The problem with writing historical fiction is that it is easy to loose yourself in the facts. I learned that discouraging bit of news after sending the 83,000-word sequel to the Thirty-Ninth Man to my editor. Aaarrrggg! AND SHE IS RIGHT!

The basic plot I had in mind was to follow governmental misdeeds as the nation expands westward. The story was to end with the Wounded Knee Massacre. That is the plot. Bring the reader from the first organized governmental action against the Sioux Nation ending in the hangings at Mankato (the first novel), and carry the story through to the confrontation that ended the Sioux Indian Wars. The first novel covered about 60-years. The follow-up should be easy. No big deal–I thought. The sequel would only have to cover the time from 1862 to 1890, a period of 28-years. It should be a piece of cake —WRONG!

What I learned: 1) People get older and their physical capabilities decline with age. Your hero’s abilities decline—except in a fantasy. 2) Research is guaranteed to uncover historical evidence revealing facts not made available to the general public. Choose carefully the evidence you choose your characters to reveal.

First Lesson: Stick to your story!

Don’t loose the reader by changing POV (point of view) to include important historical facts supporting the final outcome. It will result in confusion and interrupt the story you are trying to tell. If you are writing a novel, the story MUST always come first. Include facts that are witnessed by one or more of your primary characters. Find a way to place them in direct contact with the event. Too much movement between events, locations, new characters, and first person accounts are guaranteed to cause interest to wane and drive your editor to drink. Best to forget including them.

My next entry will show you exactly what I mean by maintaining POV. Now, please excuse me. I have a lot of rewriting to do.

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