Friday, January 08, 2010



Sometimes when you get stuck and find you are blocked by that old writer's enemy 'Resistance', just simply looking back at where you've just come from, retracing your footsteps, will help you sort out where you are headed for. I've had to do that a number of times while writing SHADOW OF THE LION, and the other day when I got stuck, that's exactly what I did. Sometimes it means reviewing your research (I did that), reading back over previous chapters (I did that, too) and rechecking your plot outline (it's definitely a help to have a road map when you're on a journey!)

In my case I have often got baffled with the complexity of the politics I am dealing with as I am not a political science student and the ancient politics with all the plots and sub-plots and twists and turns is often very confusing. So I go 'back to the drawing board' so to speak, bring out my research notes, read through them again and again, until finally I clarify just what exactly went on and when.

One problem with the last bit I'd written was that I had thought it sounded too similar to a previous chapter segment I'd written in the point-of-view of Polyperchon. However, when I read back I realized this wasn't the case. So instead of having to scrap what I'd written for my first draft I was able to keep it and proceed.

Another small problem was figuring out the dialogue between the Macedonian generals. What would they say in this particular situation? How would they react? How would Polyperchon, in particular, react when given the bad news he is about to receive. All the way through my novel this has been a challenge -- to make the voices of the Macedonians sound genuine, like the voices of rough warriors and not my own. As far as I know, I think I've nailed it, but often I have to stop and look through other novels of the same period (written by men!) to see how they handle the dialogues.

Another thing that often stalls me is figuring out the time-lines of events and trying to be as true as possible. I've run into this before and decided that as this is not a history book it isn't really necessary to be 10o% accurate because what is really 'accurate' according to those ancient time-lines considering that the histories were written several hundreds of years after the fact and the calanders of measuring time then is different than now. I still like referring to the line I read by another author in the National Post
"A historical fiction writer can take any number of liberties with the facts." Since running into criticism earlier on about this. I have now adopted this as my mantra.

So, with all these steps taken, I looked forward to see where I am going, and I found it really easy to complete the chapter segment that had stalled me on the road to THE END. Now I am ready to proceed with the journey. I even found myself jotting down random notes last night so I have a clear start for the next scene There's one more chapter segment to write and then one more complete chapter to finish. Then a bit of work on the Prologue and Epilogue. (Some of this has already been written.) So I'm that much closer to the end of my journey.

(NOTE: Some of the characters, such as Polyperchon, continued on long after the end of my particular story so their future activities will be mentioned in the Afterword so readers will know what became of them. Some died or were murdered. Some faded into oblivion. Some went on to become successful and famous. Amazingly a lot of the generals lived to very old ages. They were indeed a hardy lot of characters!)


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Meghan said...

"A historical fiction writer can take any number of liberties with the facts."

I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling with this. And it's true: so many writers have had to twist things a bit to make them fit. I can't think of more than one author who had to preface their book with such an explanation.

Wynn Bexton said...

It's true we have to keep in mind we are writing 'fiction' based on history. I have fictionalized a lot of my novel but the recorded historical facts I try to get as accurate as possible.

Sally said...

"A historical fiction writer can take any number of liberties with the facts." This also resonates with me. Of course, it's the nature of historical writing that one must take liberties.

I like to feel when I'm reading historical fiction that I can count on the basic agreed-upon facts are true, but if the timeline has to be jumbled, it's all right, especially if it's addressed in a preface. Reality doesn't tend to fit precisely with the needs of dramatic fiction, or we wouldn't need fiction.

Wynn Bexton said...

One thing I couldn't take liberties with is in the next chapter segement about a boar hunt. I wrote a new blog about this, the interesting experience I had in researching and watching boar hunting on You-tube. A good way to get some facts straight!