Twisting the Truth
In every written word there is a bit of truth, and a bit of not truth. Sometimes the not truth is accidental, or misinformation. In fiction where you expect a lot of not truths, you usually get a good shot of truths, facts, or real data. However, because it is fiction it allows the author to give it a twist. For example: In my newest Leo fiction book, which takes place in 1893, Leo goes to dinner at Fort Lowell in Tucson and meets Lieutenant Kingsbury. There really was a Fort Lowell in Tucson and Lieutenant Kingsbury was the commanding officer. Only the Fort closed in 1891. A twisted truth.
Leo and her attorney father have a house on Myers Street. It existed in 1893, and the owner was an attorney, only his name was Olson…a twisted truth. Their ranch, the Crooked Button, north of Tucson, did exist; its name was the Steam Pump Ranch.
A train robbery occurred in Pantana and the loot was stashed in Colossal Cave. Funny, Leo’s train was robbed and the loot was stashed…guess where! The fun of writing fiction is you can take true facts and give them a twist making the plot more interesting, and more believable.
Patrick O’Brian was a master of this technique. In one of his sea stories the fictitious Captain Jack Aubrey rushes to rescue Captain Bligh in Australia, who according to history was really in trouble in Australia. Makes for a great plot!
Contemporary authors abound who use nonfiction in their novels. Susan Albert in A Wilder Rose, (release date October 2013) tells the story of Rose Wilder Lane and Laura Ingalls Wilder, secret collaborators of the Little House books. Albert bases her fiction on the unpublished diaries and journals of Rose Wilder Lane. The plot for The Photographer’s Women, by Kathy Gibson, comes from the author’s family genealogy records including diaries, mementos, and newspaper clippings. Gibson writes of the life of her photographer great-grandfather and his wife, her two sisters, his mother-in-law, and younger sister. Actual photographs gave her distinct ideas for scenes.
Aundy, a historical romance set in 1899 Pendleton, Oregon, uses, as part of its plot, the city’s historic Underground. We see the Underground through the eyes of her protagonist. Shanna Hatfield’s characters join in card games, sidle up to a bar for a drink, have their clothes cleaned, and enjoy the delights of “soiled doves”, while in the Underground. In Loveland, Andrea Downing weaves her nonfiction around the terrible winter of 1886 when western cattle ranchers lost 60-75% of their stock.
C. M. Mayo believes there should not be inflexible rules for historical novelist. The author spent seven years researching the life of Agustin de Iturbide y Green, grandson of Mexico’s first emperor, for her book The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. The story, sensitive both politiclly and culturally, stays close to the historical facts.
Jane Kirkpatrick’s novels are based on the lives of actual historical people. In her newest, One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, she uses biographical facts to show the reader what someone did, when they did it, and the challenges. Using fiction she is able to let the reader learn the why of what happened and how the person felt in the doing. The combination brings the story alive. So, when you are reading or writing fiction…look for the Twisted Truth.
The capers of Leo through robberies, kidnappings, and murder will be out sometimes this fall. Take the Train to Tucson and find the Twisted Truth.