Here is a painting which hangs in my office just waiting for me to take a break and sit at the table. I run my fingers over the crisp cloth and smile expectantly as I wait for the server to appear. Ah, a cool beverage, perhaps with a couple of berries or cherries or even mint leaves to garnish it.
Oh, but it’s not reality, you say, only a painting. That makes me wonder about just what the painter saw. Was the reality exactly like this? Or did the painter create his/her own idea of the truth?
Perhaps this started as a camera photo from which some clever person painted what hangs in my office. Were young lovers sitting at the table, or an old man alone with his thoughts? Was there only one door and one building and the steps simple and square?
What we see here is the result of what our minds and our talents can do, whether with paints or words. The pink pops of flowers, maybe bougainvillea, might have been a broken down string of parched ivy. We don’t know.
We do this in writing, don’t we? Historical fiction is an excellent example. We strip out most of the story we remember and just use parts. Our rendition will not be the truth as far as reporting a certain incident but it will shine with its own truth in the context of our story. My great great great great grandfather is listed as having fought with Butler’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Further research shows this may or may not be true. For The Loyalist’s Wife I have chosen to make it true. Of course nothing else about John Garner in the novel is true but the details of that war are.
A good rule to use in historical fiction is to stick to the actual events as much as possible but weave fictional characters into them in a compelling way. John and Lucy are part of the mass movement of loyalist settlers who fought for the British King and ultimately lost. They represent all the real people who may have had similar experiences but are themselves creations of my imagination.
I have added details to round out the picture, just as the painter who created my painting could have done. How have you used truth and fiction in your writing?