Balancing Imagination with Fact When Writing Historical Fiction

When does a fiction novel contain too much fact, and when does it include too much of the writer's own imagination? There is no right answer to this question and every writer approaches balancing fact and imagination differently. For award-winning author Susan Carol McCarthy, the most effective approach is using a historical event or crisis as the foundation for a story, and then layering in how she believes that event would have impacted ordinary people.  McCarthy doesn't vary the facts in her approach, which she calls the "Tale of Two Crises". She weaves together the larger political crisis and the crisis of the ordinary people. Drawn to stories where people are backed into a moral corner, McCarthy likes to explore how the characters weigh the risks associated with doing the right thing. There is no magic formula for her when it comes to balancing fact and imagination, but she aims to spend equal time researching and writing when working on a novel. 

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  • Thank you for sharing. Great approach. 

  • My book is not a fiction book.

  • I write about the past and present. 

  • I like you how take the approach to your writing. You see the problem first. Mixing fact with fiction does seem time consuming because I would hate to get the smallest fact wrong. I sometimes have no clue as to which way my story will go because I'm trying to stay away from so many clichés. I notice that most movies, tv shows all have the same writing techniques in the end. It's almost like they have nothing new to add. I want my book to be something more then just the same old thing. I have a feeling that your style can help me grow a lot. I look forward to reading more about your style and hopefully get a chance to talk to you. Have a great day!