Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

The truth about history November 5, 2012

“A story can be new and yet tell about olden times.  The past comes into existence with the story…  Beginning at the moment when you gave it its name…it has existed forever.”

Michael Ende.  The Neverending Story (Large print edition, p. 305).

I’ve been reading The Neverending Story for the last few days.  I came across this quote today, and it struck me as being rather profound within the context of the historical fiction workshops I attended at SIWC.

The history described may be factual, but its interpretation is imagined.  Scenarios are created.  Some may have happened ‘sort of’ like the author imagined, or maybe not. However, once the reader has that account in his head, it becomes the story of the history.  It becomes the reader’s experience and it colours his/her understanding of history.

I was on London’s Tower Hill last spring, and saw a plaque commemorating the deaths of Balmerino and Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat.  They were real people who were beheaded for their involvement with Charles Stewart.  They died in 1746 and 1747, but I grieved them as if I’d known them when I saw that plaque.  I touched it and felt a pang of loss, because I’d met them in the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books.  She’d made them real.

Were the real men anything like she portrayed them?  I don’t know.   She called forth a story, and it existed from olden times.

It’s rather daunting for anyone contemplating writing historical fiction.  We may be re-creating history.  What a trust!


NaNoWriMo report for Day 5: 1698 words   (Total: 8424)


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