The hardest thing about writing historical fiction is that
sometimes history just keeps getting in the way.
As many of you probably know by now I’m writing a piece of historical fiction set in 1968. Actually I think it would be an alternate history so I guess we’ll call it alternate historical fiction.
Anyway this has required quite a bit of research and a pair of timelines for historical events and story events that criss-cross. However the story events line is a lot more bendy than the historical one because, I think, of my own stubbornness.
I find it hard to deviate from the historical record and so far, one or two small mistakes aside, I have, to the best of my knowledge, kept the story accurate.
However this adherence to history is kicking my ass at the moment. I’m trying to introduce a historical divergence, which actually will allow me to move away from sticking so sternly to history and go a bit nuts with it. The problem is that at first the divergence would happen when a character makes an announcement on the Johnny Carson show. I looked up Carson’s schedule and, no, his show wasn’t on the night the scene is set.
I did some more research and found that The Dean Martin Show was on that night and that one of his guests was a friend of the character I needed and could bring him on as a surprise guest and so on and so on. Brilliant.
So I sat down and wrote a great little scene where the main characters are watching Deano and this surprise guest comes on and is about to make a speech to the camera when I thought to myself – “Wait, was The Dean Martin Show live?”
I did some research. Dean Martin was filmed on Sunday and shown on Thursday. That would mean that my character’s announcement, which is a doozy by the way, would have been filmed in front of an audience and then not mentioned to anyone for four days. It’s a big stretch and could be fixed by an angry character demanding why the campaign is four days behind the news which at the moment I am still toying with using.
Fiona was in the kitchen and I saw sat by my desk and she simply heard the quiet groaning sound that heralded me hitting a creative wall. If she was a fifties housewife this would be the moment she appeared with a Scotch and a cigarette to calm my nerves but because, thankfully, she isn’t she simply called out, ‘You alright?’
I explained what had happened and she nodded in sympathy and said, ‘Just pretend it was live.’
And there’s the problem. If I had found out that it was filmed on Sunday and shown on Thursday after I had finished writing the whole scene and was two chapters ahead then I would have left it. I would have seen that the story was more important than the history and slept well that night. But because I’m in the middle of it a part of my brain won’t let me do it.
It’s like my mind won’t let me tell lies. I’m writing a story where a few of the things happened really happened while the rest are false and yet when it comes to this my brain simply will not let me do it.
I think this might require skipping over it and coming back later, something I’m usually dead against but at the moment I think I’ll make an exception.
Right it felt good to get that out of my system.
Back to work.