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Genres & Age Categories => Historical Fiction => Topic started by: maisybird on September 09, 2008, 06:22 PM

Title: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: maisybird on September 09, 2008, 06:22 PM
My wip is based on a well known historical event and a less well known family who took part in the event. The participants in this event are all well documented - even those who are not well known today. My problem is the age thing. I am writing for YA and the actual age of the main character would have been 6. Obviously that won't work for YA. If I acknowledge the reason for changing the character's age in my author's note will that work? I have done that before but not with an historical event so well known. I don't know what else I can do. My story begins prior to the event and the story hinges on what happened before. It would be impossible to use a fictional character since every person who took part is well documented. What should I do?
Title: Re: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: writeaway on September 09, 2008, 06:34 PM
I have just finished my historical fiction of a well documented incident. I have done exactly what leeth suggests and created fictional characters around that timeframe. My agent and I discussed it and thought it would be best since the real characters were about 2 and 3 when the incident occurred. (My book is also YA)

-L
Title: Re: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: merewald on September 09, 2008, 06:55 PM
It would be impossible to use a fictional character since every person who took part is well documented. What should I do?

I don't think there's anything wrong with using a fictional character. It's been done before and successfully. There's a certain amount of fantasy that goes into everything fictional, IMHO. Adding someone to even a well-documented historical event that wasn't actually a part of it isn't unusual. But, if you really, really want to use an actual person, I suppose you could try writing with an MC who's six. As long as the voice is older. I think there are some even adult books that have children as MCs, correct me if I'm wrong?
Title: Re: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: rab on September 09, 2008, 07:08 PM
Other writers have changed the details, including the ages of historical characters, so there is a precedent for it. Tracy Barrett does so in ANNA OF BYZANTIUM, which she explains in an author's note (although I have to admit that I felt a little miffed when I read that note and found out what had been changed.)
Title: Re: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: amberlough on September 10, 2008, 04:29 PM
My MC was also about 6 at the time of the documented event, which didn't work. I made her 14. The even isn't too well known, though, and nothing is really known about her during the incident--only that she survived it. The documentation about her is mostly about her adult life, which I don't approach. All I had to go on with her was an old photo of when she was over sixty, and her name.

(Event: Maori invasion of the Chatham Islands on New Zealand in 1835 and the subsequent massacre/enslavement/cannibalism of the native peoples, the Moriori.)

That said, I don't know what I'd do if the event was super-well-documented or well-known. I might have created an additional character, as the other posters have mentioned...it would work, and I don't think anyone would be upset. Making the 6-year-old the MC in a YA is possible, but probably very difficult. If you want a challenge....  :moose
Title: Re: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: maisybird on September 10, 2008, 06:33 PM
Thanks, everyone. It helped a lot to read other peoples reasonings and opinions.
It seems to me it will have to be a fictional story based on the actual event. To make it a little easier to understand my dilemma, the event is the voyage of the Mayflower and the story of a child placed with William Brewster. I could use a fictional member of the crew to tell the story of the voyage, but the life of this child before the voyage is pivotal to the story. It seems I have to make the whole story fictional ( which doesn't set well with my love of history) or forget about writing this story. I have made similar changes and noted them in my author's notes before, but never in a situation like this.
Title: Re: Main character in historical fiction / minor character in historical event
Post by: maisybird on September 26, 2008, 05:27 PM
Is my face red! Here I am making all this fuss and it's all been done before. A highly respected author of historical fiction created a fictional character in her Mayflower story who appears to be based on a real passenger, but with a different name and age. There is no indication that this character is fictional, except for a brief note to that effect at the back of the book.
I feel so much better. Just thought you might want to know.
 :typing