Time is such and elusive thing. It slows down, and speeds up. Sometimes it reveals (‘time will tell’). Later it proceeds to dim and distort, as memory fades and events are retold. It has often puzzled me how three, or more, people can witness the same events and yet, in the retelling over time, such different versions of the story will emerge. Each teller of the story swears that his or her version in the accurate one. ‘I was there! I saw it all!’ they say adamantly when their ‘truth’ is challenged.
This makes life particularly difficult for writers like me, who become fascinated by people and events from the past. When I uncover a compelling story, not only do I want to go back there myself, I want to take my readers back with me to experience the life that my characters had. It is a life so different from our own it can seem as if those events, which we know to be real, took place in another world. And yet there are some things that remain the same through the centuries. Courage, loyalty, love, and fear, which can so often turn to hatred. These are the essential human emotions that don’t change with time. Only the way we experience them changes. which is why we need those stories from the past. And we need to allow writers to tell those stories in a way that is compelling, engaging and able to transport us back to that time. If the story is not written in a compelling way, how many people will read it?
Writers of historical fiction need to be given some leeway to ‘fill in the gaps’ left by our incomplete records of the the past. Otherwise we will not know where we have come from and how we can survive in this ever changing world.