It’s time for my April contribution to the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of authors post their thoughts on subjects of writing. This month I discuss Blending Facts Into Fiction.
I write fiction novels and short stories, mainly suspense, but I dabble in a variety of genres. One of the many challenges fiction writers face is how factual their novels should be when events occur in a real time and place.
There are two ways to approach this challenge. The first is to assume authors of fiction have the literary freedom to develop their characters and tell their stories any way they please. It is fiction after all. The primary objective of fiction writers is to develop compelling characters and thought-provoking plots. I’ve read books where authors have completely altered historic events or places to fit their characters and story development. If it’s done intentionally with the reader fully aware, there’s a good chance it can be done successfully. However, if descriptions of people, places or events appear as mistakes to the reader, the author can come off as uninformed or lazy. Anachronisms can kill a reader’s interest as quickly as boring characters.
The second approach, and one I have found preferable, is NOT to ignore the reality of times and places in writing fiction. My goal is to have my descriptions of real events and locations be as accurate as possible.
The five novels I’ve written have all taken place in the future, giving me complete freedom to describe people and places as I see fitting the story. But my current work in progress, ROUND PEAK MOUNTAIN, and many of my short stories, take place in present time and familiar locations. Round Peak, North Carolina is a fictional town placed today in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. An unsolved murder and rumors of buried moonshine money at the center of the novel are fictional, but real geography and historic events are woven throughout the development of the story and the characters. Interstate 77, the Blue Ridge Parkway, nearby cities, the history of moonshining and the Civil War are all real. Failing to describe known times, places and events correctly would diminish the plausibility of the story. Accordingly, time spent researching places and events to ensure accuracy is time well spent.
Blending fiction with reality is an art in itself. Some novels require more fiction than fact, some more fact than fiction, but I believe achieving plausibility in the development of compelling characters and an entertaining story is the goal. It’s a goal I’m still striving to achieve.