More than half of “history” is “story.” If you’re a writer of fiction who incorporates history into your story, you better get the parts you make up right.
No one is likely to shoot you if you have
crossing the Ohio instead of the Delaware. But you better
believe some astute reader will inform you of your error. And, worse, they
probably won’t buy another of your novels.
Knowing your facts is important. How you introduce them into the story is equally important. You don’t want a laundry list of facts. Description needs to be blended in as a bridge and not a barrier between dialogue and action.
The majority of my books have been set in places I’m familiar with and I’m also fortunate as librarian of my county historical society to have access to period newspapers, diaries and other documents related to the periods I write about. Don’t neglect research. It requires time and dedication, but can be fun—as well as distracting. Though that’s another story.
My latest novel, Something So Divine, was inspired by an actual murder, though imagination led me far from the facts of that case. Employing “what if” often creates wholly new and surprising outlooks on the most mundane of facts.
When a young girl is found murdered in a
rye field in the autumn of 1897, Ned Gebhardt, a feeble-minded youth known to
have stalked the victim, is the prime suspect. Incidents involving another girl
and gossip stir emotions to a frenzy, nearly leading to a lynching. Pennsylvania
Evidence against Ned is circumstantial and there are other suspects. Influenced by the opinions of Ned’s stepsister and Ellen, a woman who has perked his interest, Simon Roth, the investigator, is inclined to give Ned benefit of the doubt. Then he discovers damaging evidence.
Still unwilling to view Ned as a cold-blooded killer, Roth puts his job and reputation in jeopardy as he seeks to assure a fair trial for the accused.
J. R. Lindermuth is the author of 15 novels, including six in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series set in a fictional rural community near Harrisburg PA. A retired newspaper editor/writer, he is now librarian of his county's historical society where he assists patrons with research and genealogy. He has published stories and articles in a variety of magazines, both print and on line. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and is currently vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Additional information on his books and writing is available at www.jrlindermuth.net