Writing Fiction about Real People
historynewsnetwork.org – Sunday September 1, 2019
Biographers can report what happened to their subject and when; they can also suggest reasons why it happened. But only a novelist can climb inside the subject’s head and describe their innermost thoughts and insecurities. It’s in that secret place, hidden behind the bare facts of a life, that I like to write.
The recent trend for biographical novels about strong historical women has produced some cracking reads: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie’s My Dear Hamilton, Stephanie Marie Thornton’s American Princess, and the works of Paula McLain, of which my favourite is The Paris Wife. In the UK Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory are perennially popular with their insider stories of the Tudor and Stuart monarchies, and many other novelists have dipped their pens in the biographical inkwell. None of them is attempting to rewrite history – it is always clear they are writing fiction – but they want to go deeper than the history books allow.
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