Walking the History/Fiction Tightrope

Elaine Forrestal transporting readers back to 1817 via To See the World

Splicing history with fiction has always created a difficult balancing act. And yet I still firmly believe that historical fiction is by far the best way to present the people and events of the past to a new audience, young or old.

Historical facts, without a good fiction-flavoured sauce to bind them together, make a dry and crumbly meal. It is reassuring to know that this sauce is not just adding flavour. A much better understanding of the facts can be gained when they are presented in a fictional form rather than the more traditional historical text. The fiction brings those long lost people to life and makes them much more memorable than the flat two-dimensional characters we tend to find in history books. Research supporting this idea is now widely available through The Literature Centre and various universities around the world. Of course for this reading of history to be effective the fiction must be well researched, the story engaging and the characters fleshed out so that they are not only believable, but so convincing that they can take the reader with them, back in time, and to their own special places. Along the way the reader will gain insights into how the times and circumstances in which people lived influenced their actions. They may also discover that even heroes are not perfect.

Walking any tightrope can be fraught with danger. The trick is to stay focused and believe that everything is possible.

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