AMERICAN HISTORICAL NOVELS discussion

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Historical Fiction and Creative Nonfiction: What's the Diff?

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message 1: by Thelma (new)

Thelma Adams | 15 comments Our friend @HiltonCaston, who attended Columbia MFA Program with me, asks: What are the differences between historical fiction and creative non-fiction?

For me, the primary difference is that in fiction I create individuals' thoughts and feelings. For example, in The Last Woman Standing, I spent days and days laying out a plan for the narrative blocking (like a play) of the Gunfight at the OK Corral with Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday. I knew that experts and amateur historians would know every step. But when I wrote about what happened simultaneously at the adjacent photography studio, all the dialog and first-person narration from Josephine Marcus's perspective are fictional. I spent a lot of time stressing over authenticity but, in the end, fictional leaps have to be made to tell the story.

The books of Erik Larson The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America are, to me, fantastic nonfiction. But the individuals included are drawn from the facts, correspondence and primary sources. The author doesn't attribute to them feelings may seem true to him as an author. That doesn't mean his gaze never

It's interesting to consider what the rules are in historical fiction and when you must follow them and when you can break them.

What do you think?


message 2: by Beverly (new)

Beverly I get asked often why i didn't use non-fiction. I made a decision to use fiction to tell the story of my grandparents rather than creative non-fiction. I wanted to tell the story with emotions and dialogue. I also wanted to create the story of what my grandfather did in the 12 plus years he disappeared from the records. I am happy i made that decision and it was more fun for me to write.


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