Wickeds, picture this. You’re doing research, but none of the facts fit what you need. Do you change your story to fit the facts, or make something up to suit your story?
Today we’re helping celebrate the release of Candy Slain Murder, the 8th book in Maddie Day’s Country Store Mystery series. Edith/Maddie, this book has an old mystery as part of the story. Did you weave fact and fiction together while concocting this plot?
Edith/Maddie: Always! That is, the story is fictional but I try to get the real-life details as accurate as I can. In this book, I consulted with Dr. D.P. Lyons about ten-year old human remains. I talked with Julia Spencer-Fleming’s daughter about her experience converting to Islam as a teenager. I drew on the adoption experiences of some people close to me. I assembled a Hungarian name from two Hungarian-Americans I knew in my past. And I read up on … oh wait, that would be a spoiler! All the rest I made up – and made it work. That said, in two recent historical mysteries of mine, I fudged the dates when particular buildings were erected – but I confessed my creative license in the Author’s Note. If that doesn’t absolve me, too bad.
Jessie: I don’t tend to fudge things that are available as concrete dates for events or inventions. I love sharing surprising bits of historical facts with readers. I also enjoy the challenge of constructing fictional people and events around the real ones. For me, constraint always sparks and hones my creativity!
Barb: I agree, Jessie, constraint sparks creativity. What a great way to put it. I’m happy to tell a lie, but in my case it’s easier and I’m better at it if it’s built on a foundation of truth. It’s like taking a running leap across a chasm. You want that solid ground under you until you take the jump. You can get away with anything in fiction if you can convince your reader of it. Whenever someone says a book isn’t “believable” I think not that the author told too outrageous a story, but that she didn’t sell it well enough.
Liz: I agree with that too! It usually makes me have to think a bit harder about how to make something work, which can ultimately take me down a whole different pathway. But I always feel better about whatever direction I go if I know it’s got some basis in fact that I can stand behind.
Sherry: Congratulations on the new book, Edith! Facts can be so pesky, but since they are facts, I stick to them 99 percent of the time. It’s awful when someone writes to say you’ve got something wrong. Barb got it right about the selling it. It reminds of author and writing instructor John Dufresne who said you could move the Empire State building if you did it right. Maybe I would add if it was right for the story.
Julie: Edith/Maddie, a Wicked congratulations to you!!I’m clearly the outlier in this group. I do research to figure things out, but then I make it up to suit the story. Sometimes I fudge things, other times I make it up out whole cloth. In Digging Up the Remains, there are some tech clues that I made up. Poisons? I use what I can find, but I make up poisons to suit my stories if necessary. For the clock shop series I did a ton of research, but could someone get killed by a bell from a clock tower? In my world that’s a yes.
Friends, do you assume that it’s all true, or do you leave room for creative facts?