Monday, March 16, 2009
We know very little
I'm nearly finished with the 2nd draft rewrites on my novel as well as writing the ending. I'd been blocked concerning how I was going to write the end of it. It has a sad ending and I'm going to have to redeem it somehow, to keep it from ending on a tragic note.
It dawned on me, last night, as my block dissolved and I was able to see how I would end it, that although I have followed documented dates, places, people, and events with precise detail, that I really know very little about these people and their lives. I've been following a biography on Nancy Storace's life as an historical outline--a skeleton of events--and then fleshing it out with my interpretation of what went on "between the lines", and I came upon a passage where the author of said biography stated that a certain event that took place in her life "must be considered simply as...". I thought to myself, "Why 'must' it? How do you know that it 'must'?" Then I realized, that for all the facts we have on these people, we really don't know. We don't know what they felt. We don't know what they saw. We don't know their most private thoughts or emotions. And even though their life events leave us some big clues, we still don't know for a fact. We really don't know much.
From now on, whenever I read a biography, if the author tells me how I "must" think or feel about a certain event in the subject's life, I will put that biography down and go look for a different one. For I've learned through the writing of historical fiction, that we really don't know much about these people at all, and to claim that we have the corner of understanding and insight into their lives, is nothing but sheer arrogance.
Labels: Following my bliss