Harsh reality

Last night I had a massive production meeting with the self, as one does when  the second guessing is eighth guessing, and the notes have piled up to ridiculous levels.   “Self,” said I, ” Quit dicking around!  Get these seven plot-hole-filla scenes done, and fiiiiniiiiish the draaaaafffft.”

My WIP is a story about a family and their goings-on, particularly their friendship with a semi-famous, real person of the time.   

The family is based on a real family.  I have changed names,  settings, smooshed multiple characters into one, shuffled around  births and marriages and deaths  (Actually, I kept a couple of the family members’ first names because they were cool-ass names.  Is that bad?)  The friend in question was a real dude who died about 110 years ago.   I’ve kept his name, and I’ve tried to stick to the facts as they are known and his character as it was described by his contemporaries…

This morning I was doing a last-minute fact check  for one of the settings.   Instead of checking quickly and then actually writing, I then went back to a family-geneaology/history site I had used in my initial research and found it had been updated.  With pictures.  With the real life edition of the backgrounds I had created for ‘my’characters. 

And now I am full of the doubt. 

I’m going to keep on keeping on.  I’m going to learn my lesson and NOT dick around on the interwebs when I’m supposed to be writing. 

Today’s discovery just drove home any latent worries I’ve had about my story and myself, beyond the usual ‘does this suck?’

Am I creepy?  Does this count as creeping out on these people?  

Is this so super lazy that I am in fact… not writing?

Feel free to weigh in on the ‘real people in made up stories’*.  I’m interested in all takes, all opinions**. 

**…but I might just say ‘lalala I can’t hear you’ and do what I was gonna do anyway.   

 * I’m not worried about libel/defamation/ legalities.  It’s not that kind of an issue or story.

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3 responses to “Harsh reality

  1. I think blending history and fiction is awesome! Have you ever read anything by Wally Lamb? He does that quite often – taking events and people that serve as touchstones for the public and developing a story around them.

    That being said, I think that discovering more background on your characters after you’ve created them is interesting. I guess this leaves you with two options: you can either rework everything you’ve written in order to “update” it, or you can say that these are characters that you’ve created, and while they’re informed by real people, they’re not necessarily a 100% match. I read a book once called Gatsby’s Girl by Caroline Preston that focused on a romance between her main character and F. Scott Fitzgerald (before he met Zelda and became an alcoholic, etc.). Preston said that she did extensive research and while her FSF was obviously real and her female protagonist was based on a real person, there were still some things that she made up. I guess that just comes with the territory of creative writing in the historical fiction genre. I don’t know if any of that helps you at all, but I thought I’d share 🙂

  2. It was interesting to see where I had guessed ‘correctly’ (ie. I had the fictional daughter go on a tour of Spain and France with her friends, as you do when you are an upper-middle-class Victorian gal in your late teens. Then I found out that the real-life woman had done a year of finishing school in Paris, and had travelled around France with her dad and kept up a really cute, detailed correspondence with her mother.
    Will my made up relationship with her mother even be able to come close? (in terms of specific little details and character, not necessarily in terms of being factual.)
    I first became interested in this woman because she was the only girl out of eight kids– I tried to cast her brothers as sailors, world travellers, naturalists and surgeons. Then I found out some of the real brothers had even cooler jobs: one dude was a frigging Egyptologist, another ran a coffee plantation in India. (nb I do not endorse colonial oppression! I’m just saying ‘Victorian file clerk vs. Victorian coffee sailor traveller dude’)

    This is where things get muddy for me- ie. the character actually talked about how she loves a good cuppa joe and her brother would send her foreign goodies… not a large detail, but I almost worry people will think I’m cheating. You know. All those people. Who are here in the office while I type things all by myself.
    Maybe the real issue is my inability to separate genuine concerns from writer-neuroses, haha.
    Wally Lamb and Caroline Preston, you say? I’ll have to check them out.

  3. Pingback: Further Reading… | Chapters four, five, and six

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