How much artistic license do I employ?

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That is my current conundrum

I’m at the stage where I’ve begun writing about the second of the three battles in my latest historical adventure Autumn 1066.

While I have the facts, or should I say what is assumed to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’ve mention previously, the only account was written by a scribe fifty years after the battle – someone who in no way could ever be classed as a reliable, let alone impartial eyewitness.

At best the facts are sparse. At worst, woefully inadequate. While the fate of the historical figures involved is largely accepted by historians, what isn’t known is the fate of the ordinary participants in the battle. Because of the lack of written documentation, I now have to use artistic licence to give a flavour of what I believe they went through. This is the time where I begin the story within the story. For it to work, both the fictional and the historical stories must now blend into one, yet be separate in my mind as I write.

Surely that is a given I hear you smugly cry. I agree – it is. But, and its a big but, what I must be careful about is that the inner story does not wind up taking over at the expense of the historical. That is not so easy to do, and will require a lot of discipline on my part.

Why did I choose to wait until the second battle? In truth I don’t know. Except, the first battle occurred before my fictional characters enter into the story proper. Maybe once I’ve reached the conclusion of the first draft, that may change.

Well I’ve got a battle to write. More later

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Employing new characters

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To my fellow writers I do apologize for what I’m about to say. But for the sake of the non writers among you it needs to be said, if only to confirm your thoughts (if you had any that is) on the subject of fictional characters.

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If there is one thing all writers love to do, it’s to come up with characters specific to their book’s needs, as and when required. In my latest work in progress, the historical adventure Autumn 1066, I have a mix of characters from the historical events that actually occurred, together with fictional ones.

While once again working my way through what I’ve written so far, the one type of fictional character I didn’t have need of until now was a villain, or in this case a pair of them. So its time to add a scheming priest and a wolf-coat to the mix. If you want to know what a wolf-coat is, I’m not about to explain it to you here. Instead I suggest you look it up. Whether or not you the readers think they are the type of individuals I’m suggesting here, is entirely up to you to decide.

I have yet to decide whether or not either of them will survive. Because they’re fictional, only the storyline will determine their ultimate fate…

What you have to remember is that when writing any story, the author has the ultimate power of life and death over his or her characters. We determine our character’s fate, who they are and their purpose for being. Regarding the two new characters, like all of my other fictional characters in the book, their part will gradually unfold as the story progresses. And before you ask – no I’m not going to reveal what I have in store for either of them, nor for that matter will I divulge anything about any of the other fictional characters. In other words – THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS.

On a more serious note, the one thing I must not change in the book, no matter how tempting it might be, is to alter what actually happened to the historical characters. To do so would be foolish in the extreme.

The time for all of you to find out what happens will be when you purchase a copy and read it for yourselves.

I’ve decided that this book will initially be published as a paperback. Why? Read Derek Haines’ blog post for an explanation of the subject here.

To give any new work of fiction a fighting chance, means that those who normally harshly criticize any book that appears solely in ebook form, must initially be denied the chance. As Derek says, a paperback version of any new book always stands a far better chance of gaining favourable reviews. When the time comes to publish the ebook version, they can always be included as a promotional tool. After that, what the trolls say about the ebook version will be seen as nothing more than sour grapes on their part by the general public.

Well, If you will excuse me, the story won’t write itself you know…

More later

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Research phase over

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At long last I’ve completed my research of all the available sources, both the highly questionable historical accounts as well as the utterly fanciful for my latest adventure story. Because of it, I’ve compiled the background of the story (slightly over four thousand words), in preparation for when I begin writing from the point of view of the characters.

Once again I’m mentally exhausted (brain-fade). So I need to take a break for a couple of days. But very soon I’ll begin writing what at this moment in time I still believe will be a long short story (novelette). However when inspiration inevitability makes it its presence felt, the story may expand to a novella or even a full length novel. I have also decided who the fictional characters will be in the story, not forgetting their nationalities nor their personal traits, their likes and dislikes.

I can now reveal what the story will be about. It concerns the short time period of barely a month in the autumn of 1066, when three decisive battles occurred in quick succession, culminating in the defeat of Saxon England by Duke William of Normandy’s army, and the Saxon king Harold Godwinson’s death, where Battle Abbey now stands, close to the town of Hastings on England’s south-east coast.

PS – I’ve also decided on the story’s title – Autumn 1066, short, sweet and to the point.

More later.

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Never make assumptions

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Just to let you know that the new story is progressing as expected. As of yesterday, I’ve written two thousand words. Most of what I’ve collected together so far is from the often dubious historical accounts written fifty years after the event, which I have previously mentioned. It’s thanks to them that the idea for this story planted itself firmly in the forefront of my mind, refusing to budge. I find that certain stories have a tendency to do that. They demand to be written. Who am I to argue when a story chooses me? It’s Kismet…

Once I am satisfied that I have trawled all of the relevant historical accounts for the necessary background information to at least give my historical fiction a certain degree of legitimacy, then and only then will I begin writing from the perspective of my fictional character’s involvement on opposing sides in the story. If I’m honest, that’s when the fun begins for me.

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The day before yesterday I sent a read only copy of the historical background information I’d written so far to my mate in Abu Dhabi, believing he might like to see what I’m up to.

Unfortunately like a lot of writers of my acquaintance, he completely got the wrong end of the stick. Instead of perusing it first to see what it was all about, he immediately began critiquing. He complained about the length of some of the sentences, not to mention his difficulty in coming to terms with the period names I’m using. He was also less than complimentary about a couple of instances I have added into the mix of notes as they occurred to me, concerning some of my character’s interactions with one another.

There is a lesson to be learnt from this. Don’t send a sample of what your writing to another writer without making it plain that it is not being sent for the purposes of criticism. By the same token, as the recipient don’t automatically make assumptions when a fellow writer sends you a sample of what their new story is about. If they want you to cast a critical eye over what has been sent to you, they will make it plain. Before you engage your inner editor/critic/grammar nazi, take a long hard look at what has been sent to you in the first place. Then take a breath and step back from the incorrect assumption you made. You will find it beneficial in the long run.

Making assumptions is to be avoided like the plague. As the recipient may I suggest that you simply read it to get a feel for what is currently occupying the sender’s mind and nothing more. I thought I had made it plain to him. Apparently I hadn’t – lesson learnt on my part.

One last thing – have I got a title in mind? No, not yet. That usually suggests itself once the story is well underway. Certainly not at this extremely early stage of the proceedings…

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It begins

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And we’re off, much earlier than expected. I wrote the first two paragraphs of my new historical fiction story yesterday. I have all my notes, historical figures and research references, plus my characters sorted out.

Thereby hangs a tale. To avoid criticism from anal rententives aka nitpickers, whatever I do I must ensure that anything I say about any actual historical character is accurate. It’s not as easy as it sounds when the historical records are not only thin on the ground, but also often sparsely written. Which is not surprising when you consider that at the time the nearest individual to a war correspondent was a court chronicler. Worse, one tasked with writing down what happened for the first time, a mere fifty years after the event.

I also have to ensure that the same goes for the nationalities involved, the historical locations, and the armour and the weapons used. Even the fictitious character’s names I’m employing must be correct.

As far as is possible I’ll be following the historical event as it happened. In other words I can’t say that group A were in location X when history says they weren’t!

With the written information on the historical event being sketchy at best, there will always be a danger of this story ending early. I’m hopeful it will wind up novella length. For it to become a novel might prove to be stretching things to far. But at the moment I’m putting any thoughts in that direction to the back of my mind while I concentrate on getting the story that is feverishly swirling around inside my head written down.

When I’m relatively happy with it I’ll expand on various elements within the whole, bearing in mind that my often acid tongued detractors will be looking for any excuse to find fault. Unfortunately, in this business putting up with their rants, sorry I meant to say their reviews, is the price you pay for writing a tale they couldn’t, or wouldn’t know how to write in a month of Sundays, bless their often ill educated black hearts.

As always I’ll keep you informed with regular progress reports.

More later…

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The first progress post

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Does this place look familiar to you? If you read Forgotten it should do…

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Well I have begun. At the moment I’m in serious re-reading mode concerning The Forgotten Age. So far I’ve carefully worked my way through the first two chapters. I’m not just reacquainting myself with the characters, but also what happened in, around and beneath the Giza Plateau, as well as on the surface. I’m also making note of the seemingly random clues which most will have ignored, not appreciating their significance or even rejected as possible red herrings.

I always leave vague clues in every book I write. No doubt I’ll do the same thing when I come to write the sequel, just in case another is required by you in the future.

If you’ve already read Forgotten through thoroughly you will have noted the significance of above picture. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING REGARDING IT IN YOUR COMMENTS. TO DO SO WOULD BE A MONUMENTAL SPOILER ALERT FOR NEW READERS!!! For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, do yourselves a favour and click on the above red link, get a copy and read it!

That’s about it for now. I’ve got more re-reading to do. More characters to catch up with both good and bad, plus more of those subtle clues to gather together…

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My twenty-seventeen project

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Thanks to the few of you who bothered to state their preference for a sequel in my recent blog post a few days ago It’s for you to decide, I now have my first project for twenty-seventeen. Rather, you have given me one hell of a headache – to work out if a sequel to the archaeological adventure the Forgotten Age which I wrote in 2012 is at all possible. After all Forgotten is already a sequel in its own right, in this instance to Race Against Time.

The OED definition of the word sequel is – A published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one. Nothing to it I hear you cry. So what’s stopping me?

First of all I need to re-read it to thoroughly familiarise myself with the story once again. Secondly I have to get myself back into full R&D mode. From memory I appear to have left the reader with the impression that I killed off the hero Nick Palmer and some of his friends by trapping them inside an ancient hermetically sealed room (The Library of the Ancients) somewhere deep beneath the Giza Plateau, between the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. Did I, or didn’t I? I don’t recall. After all its been four years since I wrote it!

That being true, how in the blue blazes do I resurrect them? It’s not immediately obvious to me at the moment by any stretch of the imagination, hence my need to fully reacquaint myself with every aspect of the story.

For those of you who have been kind enough to read my books in the past, rest assured I’ll give it a lot of thought. If it’s at all humanly possible I’ll make it happen. But if I decide that they’re dead after all…

Either way you my loyal readership will be the first to know via this my blog. So that’s it for now. I’ve got a lot of re-reading, head scratching and note taking to do.

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