The website of the historical fiction writer.

The Lying Art

On the Saturday afternoon, after I got several books signed (this novel better start paying for itself as this writing habit is costing a fair bit) I went to another panel session which again had authors, historians, agents and people from the publishing world.

This talk, called ‘The Lying Art’ discussed the problems faced when trying to write a narrative using, for want of a better word, historical facts. The subject of facts is a topic for another day (preferably after a couple of pints and some cultured classical music, followed by a shower and a lie down in a darkened room with whale music soothingly singing from the speakers of a nearby stereo). I can, however, speak from experience that although having more sources to work from when writing a story, they can limit what your imagination can do. For the Viking novel, there was very little written about the time as most of it is set in Norway from 789-825. Apart from a few entries in chronicles from England and Scotland I was pretty much free to make it up, providing it was realistic. The Russian Revolution, however, has lots of source material on offer. A researcher really is spoiled for choice with what is an embarrassment of riches, particularly since the end of the Cold War. These include eyewitness accounts, films, photographs, etc. Again, on the one hand this is great for information but you are very limited when wanting to make your own story.

One interesting point in the discussion was whether taking liberties with facts could actually be classed as lying or invention. It was generally agreed that such things were fine as long as it was done sparingly and was believable. One way of getting around this is to not use historical figures as the main characters but have them in the supporting cast. Also it is important to highlight this in the Author’s Note bit at the end of the book just in case people take fiction as fact.

Also, have a look at this: Games and history is a post for another time but this might give you something to think about. The books look good as well.

Join us next time when we shall be looking at Pitching!


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