Making Research Come to Life: Drafting
Libraries, book stores, and publications in general tend to divide books into two broad categories; fiction and non-fiction. Research can play a role in the writing of both categories, but the categories themselves are not always as distinct as one would assume. One very clear example of that is historical fiction. Think Hattie Big Sky (Kirby Larson) , May B. (Caroline Rose), and Number the Stars (Lois Lowry) , or Ann Turner’s picture books: Nettie’s Trip South, Katie’s Trunk, and Abe Lincoln Remembers. In each case the authors weave fact and fiction seamlessly throughout compelling stories with rich characters true to their times and places in history.
The blending of fact and fiction in historical fiction is not unlike a mobius strip. The two sides are not only inseparable, but interchange themselves while traveling along the path of the story. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to detect start- or end- points for the research and storytelling.
Historical fiction defies neat packaging. At its best, that ring of recognition resounds within the fictional lives of its characters, yet their journeys reveal specifics and complexities that can only be found through diligent research. Sorting out fact from fiction allows readers to explore a new purpose for research.
As I move along into the drafting process for a book that will take Mari, her family, and community through the continuing years of German occupation, my goal will be to find the magic of that mobius strip. It was necessary, first, to read enough reliable sources about those years to make the chronology and mounting pressures feel like second nature to me. Since I seem to have reached that point (and keep my resources at my fingertips for reference) I can now move back to the fictional side of my brain to seek out the personal stories my characters have to tell.
Wish me luck, I’m going in…