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Touched with Fire (The Fire Trilogy #1)
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Historical Fiction Discussions > Historical Fiction -- How much fiction is too much fiction?

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message 1: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments I have written a novel set in the American Civil War and inspired by the true story of an escaped slave, Ellen Craft. Her husband wrote a book about their escape that I read many years ago that was the origin of my idea for this HF novel.

The first two sections of my book closely follow her true story, as does the very end. After that, however, the story is no longer hers, but is still true to the Civil War and very well researched as to the facts and events of the period.

Some have criticized the book for deviating from Ellen's true story, although the book is labeled HF, it states that it is inspired by a true story, and in my author's note at the end I delineate where I actually deviated from Ellen Craft's life.

When writing the book I actually did wrestle quite a lot with the issue of using Ellen Craft's name. The reason I did in the end was because I admired her courage and her life so much that I wanted to pay homage to her and to her husband. And the novel really is inspired by them, since the opening two sections are their story. I wanted people to know who she was, and perhaps go on to learn more about her, as I encourage in my author's note where I cite William's book.

But I also had a bigger story to tell about the Civil War than just Ellen's escape, and so I took it further to also tell about how women really did serve in combat in the war, about the motives of the Union troops for fighting, and the reasons why the war turned out the way it did. Ellen, a "white" negro former slave disguised as a man in the Union army became a perfect foil for exploring a host of issues about the war, north and south. This is no spoiler, since the synopsis for the book states that Ellie joins the Union army. I'm not giving away what happens and the end!

But I also wanted to credit Ellen Craft and wanted for her to be remembered. Anyway, that was my motive in finally deciding to use her name.

So the question is, in your view when you read a book how much fiction about a real person who inspires a story is too much fiction? How much leeway is an author allowed?

Also, instead of an author's note at the end laying out the true facts of Ellen's life, should I have done that in a forward so you go into the novel aware of where the book takes on a new direction?

I welcome everyone's thoughts. Best regards to all.


message 2: by JR (new)

JR Hassett (spiritof13) Christopher - for myself, I like to know up front that the story deviates from the true story but the details of where (up front) spoils the story for me. I then like to read it at the end and put it all together myself.

Jana


message 3: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thenightowl) | 2424 comments Christopher, we already have a thread that addresses this topic. You may want to check out people's responses there: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

I wouldn't take any review too personal. It's really all a matter of perspective and every reader has a different threshold of how much fiction and how much history they want in their reading. Can't satisfy them all.


message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Hopkins | 23 comments I agree with Jana. Put it at the end, in an 'Author's Note'.

I'm never fond of character lists at the front of novels, either. I'd much rather meet and get to know them as the story progresses :)


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 404 comments I like a good fat Author's Note at the end of a historical novel.


message 6: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments JR wrote: "Christopher - for myself, I like to know up front that the story deviates from the true story but the details of where (up front) spoils the story for me. I then like to read it at the end and put..."

That's good to know. Thanks.


message 7: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments Jackie wrote: "Christopher, we already have a thread that addresses this topic. You may want to check out people's responses there: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1......"

Thanks for the comment. I know it's true you can't please everyone, but I really am debating whether to put in a forward so you go into the book knowing what's what. So far the consensus seems to be leave it in the author's note at the end as I have it now, and that is useful and helpful to know. And I do appreciate all points of view, including those that are critical! Hence the discussion.


message 8: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments Jackie wrote: "Christopher, we already have a thread that addresses this topic. You may want to check out people's responses there: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1......"

Also, thanks for directing me to the other thread on this subject. Very useful and informative.


message 9: by Shomeret (last edited Aug 31, 2013 03:50PM) (new) - added it

Shomeret | 233 comments In my case your details about how you deviated from Ellen Craft's story got me interested in the book. You should be aware that some readers are not as sensitive to spoilers as others are. The sort of detail that you posted doesn't spoil the book for me. When authors post about the broad outline of a book as you did, it helps me to decide about whether I want to read it. I checked the reviews on Amazon and was impressed enough to download the book in Kindle format.


message 10: by Harold (new)

Harold Titus (haroldtitus) | 109 comments I agree with the other posters that comments about the authenticity of historical characters should come at the end. I, too, wrestled with fictionalizing real people. I decided to alter several surnames. They were not of famous people; still, I thought that their actual names and what we do know about them should be respected. Your situation was a bit different. Explaining your decision in your author's notes would be correct and honest.


message 11: by Marjorie (last edited Aug 31, 2013 06:58PM) (new)

Marjorie DeLuca (marjoried) | 10 comments As a reader and writer of historical fiction I take the view that it's fiction and represents a certain interpretation of the facts or rather an imaginative retelling. I've solved that problem by making the real person a background character and my main protagonist one that I've created to interact with the real person in that real moment in time.


message 12: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments Marjorie wrote: "As a reader and writer of historical fiction I take the view that it's fiction and represents a certain interpretation of the facts or rather an imaginative retelling. I've solved that problem by ..."

I think that's a good approach. Thanks.


message 13: by D.L. (new) - added it

D.L. Andersen | 8 comments As an avid reader and writer of historical fiction I take the same approach as Marjorie. The fiction part is there for a reason. Although I try to remain as true to facts as possible often even various historian interpretations differ widely when scant facts are vague. One historian I know even quips that all history is never really certain. So whose to say how things really went down anyway?


message 14: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments Shomeret wrote: "In my case your details about how you deviated from Ellen Craft's story got me interested in the book. You should be aware that some readers are not as sensitive to spoilers as others are. The so..."

Thank you!


message 15: by Liza (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liza | 39 comments Hi Christopher! I'm reading this book now and so far I'm enjoying it! Just started part two, so it seems I'm still toward the beginning.

With regard to your question, I do think there is a difference between historical fiction and alternative fiction. Although I haven't read far enough into it yet, it seems the second part of the book might be leaning more toward the alternative side. I think alternative fiction can be really enjoyable especially if I know its an alternative account!


message 16: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Datta | 72 comments Thanks to all those who commented. It was very helpful. Chris


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