“Honest” Writing and Historical Fiction

Fairytales with Bite – Dismissing Fairytales – Why?

I’ve never understood why some people dismiss fairytales.  I’ve often come across comments like “oh that is just a fairytale”, “you shouldn’t take that seriously, it is just a fairytale” etc etc.  For me there is no “just” to a fairytale.  There is a lot of truth behind many, if not most of them.

I strongly suspect Hans Christen Andersen had witnessed seeing poor girls selling matches on the street, leading him to write The Little Match Girl.  There is a truth behind that story which I think comes across powerfully.  Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince to me conveys what I think Wilde would have liked to have seen happen.  The statue Prince in the tale knew his gold leaf would only be of benefit to people if it was taken off and given to poor people to sell so they could make ends meet.

So fairytales should be taken seriously I think.  They’re not just for kids.  Indeed the original versions of so many of the tales are not suitable for the under-18s.  Disney could never have filmed The Little Mermaid as Hans Christen Andersen originally wrote it.  There is no happy ending in the original.  The classic fairytales are carefully crafted stories (and/or reworkings of even older tales) and should be appreciated as an art form in their own right.

 

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Fairytales are not just “pie in the sky”.  Image via Pixabay

 

This World and Others – Honest Writing

In my CFT post tonight, I interview Gill James about her historical fiction and the issue of truthful writing came up as part of our discussions.  Gill made the very good point that sometimes fiction can pull out truths that strict facts cannot and, for me, a great example of this is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, which has made many people think again about what they think they know about Richard III.

Gill’s own book, The House on Schellberg Street, examines just what ordinary young German people may have known during Hitler’s rise to power and throughout World War Two.  (Many really did not want to be at war with Britain incidentally.  As well as having friends here, well we Brits are often known as Anglo-Saxons and of course the Saxons were from Saxony which is in Germany.  Our history goes back a very long way).

So what then is “honest” writing?  Is it just strict non-fiction based on verifiable fact?  I don’t think so.  It is writing which comes from the heart of the author and which conveys an important message (and without preaching.  To Kill a Mockingbird does this superbly. The horror of racism is conveyed brilliantly).   It is the author writing true to their characters regardless of how horrible or nice they are.  It can be the author sticking to their guns at times when it comes to how they want “their people” to be portrayed.

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Honest Writing will create ripples.  Image via Pixabay

Facebook: General & From Light to Dark and Back Again & Chandler’s Ford Today –

Writing Historical Fiction

In Part 1 of my Chandler’s Ford Today interview with Gill James about her historical fiction (The House on Schellberg Street), we talk, amongst other things about why invent historical stories when history itself is full of real ones?  An interesting topic I think.  Comments very welcome here and on the Chandler’s Ford Today website.  Part 2 next week will share Gill’s excellent advice for writers new to the genre of historical fiction.  Gill’s book is based on factual letters written by (as round robins) young German girl friends living during Hitler’s rise to power and throughout World War Two.  I read the book and felt a palpable sense of menace especially for one of the characters given, of course, I read with the benefit of hindsight, something the characters could not have.

 

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Gill’s book’s front cover.  Image kindly supplied by Gill.

 

 

Old letters - image via Pixabay

So much history is found in letters and postcards.  Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT FASCINATES ME ABOUT GENRE FICTION

What I Find Fascinating about Genre Fiction

What I find fascinating about the different genres in fiction are the different ways in which they appeal to different people.

Why is crime always such a big seller? People want to see justice done, are fascinated by what makes others turn to crime, have become a fan of the detective or whoever is the hero of the novel they’re reading and wants to read the latest adventure and also to solve the puzzle that the crime story sets. (Of course, most readers have more than one reason for loving a certain type of story. I know I do).

As for historical fiction, for me, the big appeal is looking at viewpoints you might not have thought about before and also to work out what could have happened in situations where there is no definite conclusion. (What actually happened to the Princes in the Tower is the obvious one here. Were they killed? Were they smuggled out of the country? Why was Henry VII so worried about Perkin Warbeck? You can have lots of fun writing books that try to answer questions like that. You don’t need to be right even. What you do need to be is accurate with the proven history and make a good case for the solution you are coming up with).

So what do you like to read and why? (I love to read outside my normal genre for writing in, which is healthy, I think).

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Chandler’s Ford Today

My comments above tie in nicely with this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post where I interview Gill James about her historical fiction, The House on Schellberg Street.  More details tomorrow.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time.  Image via Pixabay.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time. Image via Pixabay.

From Light to Dark and Back Again – Reviews

Many thanks to all who have left reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (Kindle or paperback versions). One example is below but all are much appreciated.

Feedback, negative or positive, is vital for any writer. We learn from mistakes. We learn we can’t please all of the people all of the time! It is also confirmation you are reaching out to readers (hopefully in a good way).

What you can glean from reviews is the general consensus, which can be incredibly useful in thinking about who your Ideal Reader is likely to be, which in turn helps you to write more effectively for that mythical creation.

I wrote a piece a while ago about book reviews (and why they matter) on Chandler’s Ford Today.  I share the link here.  See what you think.  The great thing with a review is it doesn’t have to be long but does give at least one clear reason as to why you liked something or didn’t.  Help an author – review them!

 

“This is a quirky collection of flash fiction: from malevolent fairies to gritty contemporary dramas and bite-size funny stories. I like the way Allison is playful with words and gives a fresh slant to traditional tales. A very enjoyable read.”

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WHAT I LIKE IN MY FICTION

What I Like in My Fiction

When not writing, I love to read crime fiction, history (fiction and otherwise!), fantasy (naturally) and non-fiction such as the Ben Macintyre books. (Particularly enjoyed Operation Mincemeat, which gave the true story behind The Man Who Never Was).

The problem with history, of course, is we all know it is written by the winners, something Richard III would have good cause to complain about if in a position to do so! (Don’t you just know the story would be very different indeed if he’d won Bosworth!). What always annoys me with his story is the historian John Rous given he praised Richard to the heights during Richard’s reign and then condemned him during Henry Tudor’s time on the throne. The very definition of hypocrisy I feel!

Classics - image via Pixabay

Classics – image via Pixabay

So how DO you write about history using fiction to do so? My interview on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday will be with Gill James and we talk about her historical work, The House on Schellberg Street.

We discuss, amongst other things, why write historical fiction when “real” history is full of stories anyway. Gill gives some wonderful insights into writing historical fiction.

The interview will be in two parts and I hope it will show what historical fiction can achieve. It can fill the gaps where facts do not exist for one thing. It shows what could’ve happened and leaves you to think about it (which is why I love The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey).

Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Such a familiar look. Image via Pixabay.

Capturing Moments in Time

 

If a short story captures a moment in time, then I think it is fair to say that a flash fiction piece captures half of that. Sometimes you don’t need to see the whole moment to gauge what a character is like or how the incident in the flash fiction piece would unfold if the writer expanded the tale out to the more usual length of a story. A glimpse can be more than enough to tell you what you need to know!

Flash fiction is a good vehicle for quirky stories that perhaps do not have the most obvious home to go to. Less really is more at times. For me, the best stories (of whatever length) are on the understated side. You feel the characters’ pain, anxieties etc. They are not forced on you. You as the reader are left to work things out. I love doing this myself. It can be great fun reading on to see if you guessed correctly.

 

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

 

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Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined… all valuable traits for success, whether you’re a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.