Saturday, October 12, 2013

Great History = Great Fiction!

Recently, I had the privilege of reading a novel by one of my favorite authors. As usual the novel did not disappoint. It was filled with the combination I have come to expect from that author, a blend of adventure, intrigue, and swoon-worthy romance. Best of all, the characters in the book were based on one of the most famous couples in history. The book: Rebellious Heart, by Jody Hedlund, is a fictional account of the lives of John and Abigail Adams.

It takes a talented author to create compelling fiction from real life events. The seamless detail required of fiction makes this task, at the very least, daunting. But Rebellious Heart, does just this. Since I analyze everything I read, I thought it might be interesting to see just how Jody did this.
First of all, the book wasn’t a true biography. Although many Hollywood critics complain when a biographical movie deviates from the actual incidents that occurred, in fiction this is often necessary to weave a compelling story. Deciding what to cut and change in the lives of people as famous as John and Abigail Adams, must have been a challenge. But as an author, we can remember that this is first and foremost fiction, therefore liberties can be taken. The novel also contains an intriguing subplot that may have never happened to the real characters but added interesting conflict to the lives of the fictional ones. This, plus so many other elements, kept the pages turning and what could have become a dull story for the modern reader became a true gem in the hands of a talented author.

The facts in the book blended seamlessly into a fictional story and as I was not familiar with the life of this couple, other than obvious basics, it was a surprise to me to learn in the end what was true and what wasn’t. I appreciated that there wasn’t long paragraphs of back story and that it read like a novel based on fictional characters. Be careful of this in your own historical novels. Readers want first and foremost a good story with characters they can relate to whether they are real or fictional.

To help us, as writers, I’ve come up with three tips for writing a story based on actual people or events.

Three Tips for Writing Biographical Fiction:

1)     Be Accurate: While most people will not know whether or not everything in your story is historically true, you should try to be as accurate as possible. If not, readers who are familiar with the history may wonder whether or not you did your research. Use the author’s note to relay to your readers the changes you made.

2)     Be Accurate but Use Author License: Depending on whether or not you are writing a story loosely inspired by true events or a full-fledged fictionalized account, use author license to make the story compelling and riveting. Don’t sacrifice readability for getting the facts straight.

3)     Research as Much as Possible about the Real People: In the author’s note of Rebellious Heart, Jody even listed several of the books she found helpful. This was a nice addition for readers who might want to delve further. I’ve found in my own writing that extensive research about the people or events you intend to fictionalize also sparks new ideas and new elements. Often the things that happen in real life really are more compelling than the things you try to think up yourself.

In conclusion, I’ll reiterate the title of this post – great history really does make great fiction. From movies such as Titanic or Lincoln, to novels such as Rebellious Heart, history, like fiction, has the ability to sweep us away into another world.


To celebrate the recent release of Rebellious Heart, and to give one blog reader a chance to win a copy of the book along with a copy of the book, Wives of the Signers, an anthology that includes Abigail Adams, leave a comment with your email address about your favorite real events based book or movie. You will be entered into a drawing to win this package of two great books!! Don’t forget to leave your email so I can contact you!  I will draw a winner this Friday, October 18th.


Calling All Jane Austen Fans!
Do you like Historical Romance and everything Jane Austen? Next week I will be giving away another two fabulous books. Laurie Alice Eakes's book, A Reluctant Courtship is being released this week on October 15th!! Plus, along with that will be a copy of  Julie Klassen's newest book, The Tutor's Daughter. So check back next week for a chance to receive both of these great Regency Romances.  

Happy Reading and (of course) Writing!



Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I love Jody's books. Please enter me in the giveaway.

susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com

I've heard bits and pieces of this couple's life, and I can't wait to read the book.

Linda Marie Finn said...

Love the ideas and love both books, please enter me. I am thankful for any tips and ideas on writing historical fiction. Hugs to jody for writing such fine work.
Linda Finn
Faithful Acres Books

Linda Marie Finn said...

a movie... thats hard, Gone with the Wind or Little Women have been two period movies I have loved and as to books, Little Women ,but we love Little House here too.
Linda Finn

Britni said...

I would love to read these two books! Thanks for doing this giveaway : )

One of my favorite book genres is historical fiction. Right now I am reading Snow on the Tulips which is based on a true story about a Resistance worker in WWII and the people who help save his life. It's a beautiful story!

Jillian said...

I've heard so many great things about Jody's books. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

I recently read Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White, which is based on the Culper Ring and the events of the Revolutionary War. I loved it!


by Pegg Thomas said...

"The Killer Angels" a book about the battle of Gettysburg. The movie "Gettysburg" is also based on that book. Good stuff!

twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com

Cheryl Barker said...

Would love to win Jody's book. I saw someone else mentioned Gone With the Wind. It's a favorite of mine, too.

ckbarker at gmail dot com

onorman said...

Little Women is the one I choose. There's so many it's hard to choose.

Jackie McNutt said...

Amanda, enjoyed your thoughts on combining facts and fiction. I have recently read on Kindle Soldiers Heart by Tamera Lynn Kraft. Great story about Civil War. Also have to agree Gettysburg Film one of best done. Thank you.

JoyAveryMelville said...

I truly enjoy your blog posts, Amanda, but this one hits me where I most love to READ. ':D
I've read three of Tina Pinsons SHADOW SERIES books and am looking forward to the fourth as it's one of those series that written as ONE book would make a 900 page novel and should be read as such. Civil War - President Lincoln - all a huge part but it moves to the Oregon Trail and westward - her writing is so good you feel you're going through each thing with the heroine.
I'm not much of a movie-watcher but we're watching a two-part series this week on the AMERICAN GOLD RUSH - 1848-49 - Mike Row is the narrator and it's well done.
Would love to win the books you're offering, Amanda!

Terri said...

My all-time favorite WWII books are Judith Pella's Daughters of Fortune series.
I've read Jody's A Noble Groom. Well done, and I'd like to read more of hers.

Erynn said...

Through Gates of Splendor, The Jim Elliott story. I also loved The Help.
I love Jody and would be thrilled to win a copy. ENewman (at) gmail (dot) com