Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blending Fact With Fiction

Good morning, everyone!

I think everyone can relate to this topic, whether you're a reader or a writer.  How much fact do you want to draw out the details, and how much becomes too much and boring?

The Curse of the Templars, I
January 2012
I thought about this long and hard when developing The Curse of the Templars, and the first book, Immortal Hope.  In fact, about five chapters in, I had to do something I never do -- cut words.  I had a historical dump, when it so wasn't necessary.

We authors tend to get carried away.  We find fascination in the tiniest, most insignificant things -- after all, we can pull ideas for a whole story off of just looking at a cereal box at times.  And it's difficult to chain our inner muse when we're fascinated by something in particular.

But that actually became the key for me: stopping, looking at what I was writing and conciously acknowledging that all these facts and figures were, in essence, drivel to a reader.  Which is what we have to remember when we're writing...the reader's interest, not the writer's interest.

Fact needs to relate to the scene and the overall plot, while simultaneously driving the story forward.  A key place I can use an example, is when Anne, in Immortal Hope, is rationalizing the behavior of the knights, and how some could be less than honorable.  The first draft, I had four paragraphs listing all the different incidents where Templar knights had been documented for abuses in power.  It was fascinating to me, because I was the one doing the research.  All the reader really cares about is the summary that made it into the final version, which is along the lines of  "Some accounts documented Templar abuses of power, where men who were supposed to be noble used the sword to domineer over the unfortunate."

Readers don't come to our books for a history lesson or a reality disertation.  The facts they glean, they learn via the fiction story-telling.  Case in point -- it's really easy for us to believe CSI, and we all have a general idea of cop procedurals strictly from television, not because we watched a documentary on "Step 1, Step2, Step3...  We're really okay knowing, logically, it's been fictionalized, and we simply don't really care if fingerprint points can't possibly be matched that quickly, in real life.

The Curse of the Templars, II
September 25, 2012
The point?

When an author blends fact into fiction, historical, procedural, or simply reference, she needs to keep the reader in mind.  Step back from your writing.  Ask yourself, does my reader, who may not share the same passion for this topic, but wants to be entertained by the romance, really care about the nitty gritty?  Can I summarize this, as heartbreaking as it may be, and drive to my next point of action faster?

If you can, you probably don't need the extra tidbits.  And if you really can't part with the details, at least maybe you can move them, so the info doesn't come all at once.

Anyway!  The second book in The Curse of the Templars releases TUESDAY!  Whee!  I hope you'll check it out.  On my next stop in this month, I'll be giving away a copy or two!



Jannine Gallant said...

I'm not so tempted to dump info in my contemporary suspenses. But, the historicals - oh me oh my. The last one I wrote was about the Salem witch trials, and it was pure torture not to include everything I'd every learned about the period! Very good advice.

Margo Hoornstra said...

It is so easy to get carried away with the writing, you forget to really look at what you've written. I do the same thing with descriptions. I could go on and on and on and on about some beautiful landscape. But then I remember my characters are still back where I left them -- and probably bored to tears. Nice post and, as Jannine says, very good advice.