Writing a historical piece with fictional elements?

Andythehuman

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My apologies if this is the wrong place, but I have a bit of a conundrum in terms of status quo and genre.
I have a much older friend (89) who's late husband was in WWII, part of a tank battalion. She gave me his diaries from the war, as well as permission to write the story how I see fit.
My questions are:
1. Would it be uncouth to "Hollywood it up" so to speak? Sort of a Saving Private Ryan thing...
2. If I stray from strict historical fact, would that change it from non-fiction to fiction?

I'm a fiction writer by passion (hopefully trade someday), but this project will be near and dear to me. If it ever sells, I'd like to find a way to use any money made from it to help her should she still be with us.

Thank you,
Andy
 
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Brigid Barry

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If your intention is to write non-fiction, then it needs to be verifiable facts.

If you start making stuff up that's historical fiction (which is a thing beloved by many).
 
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Sonsofthepharaohs

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I have a much older friend (89) who's late husband was in WWII, part of a tank battalion. She gave me his diaries from the war, as well as permission to write the story how I see fit.
She sounds like an awesome lady, and that's an awesome primary source to base your story on :)
My questions are:
1. Would it be uncouth to "Hollywood it up" so to speak? Sort of a Saving Private Ryan thing...
Not at all - as long as she has given you permission to do so, and you're writing historical fiction.
2. If I stray from strict historical fact, would that change it from non-fiction to fiction?
More than likely. Even if you're writing narrative non fiction, it still needs to be true to your primary sources, and those sources probably need to be cited. But if you're writing something like fictional biography, or a story 'based on' true events, you have much more leeway - this might be what you're imagining?
I'm a fiction writer by passion (hopefully trade someday), but this project will be near and dear to me. If it ever sells, I'd like to find a way to use any money made from it to help her should she still be with us.
That's a lovely intention, but you'd better get a move on... publishing moves at a glacial pace. You might see quicker - albeit smaller - results from self publishing.

Good luck :)
 
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Woollybear

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Hi Andy,

Like the others, I think adding the fiction shifts it to historical fiction ... "inspired by actual events." It would be a different audience, and possibly harder to trade publish (hard to say.)

Non fiction is queried on proposal, so you could, if you wanted, query it as a nonfiction proposal with plans of writing it that way if an agent was interested. It sounds like you want to write it up as fiction, which is queried after a project is completed, and so, this path comes with a higher risk of a lot of work for no return.

Whether fictionalizing would be uncouth depends on how your friend feels about your suggested changes, I think. I'd have a conversation with her about some of the details that you are considering adding. She may have given permission without thinking through what it is that really needs to be added.

Good luck! I'm an amateur and working through related concerns.
 

Andythehuman

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If your intention is to write non-fiction, then it needs to be verifiable facts.

If you start making stuff up that's historical fiction (which is a thing beloved by many).
I appreciate this. I needed to hear this exact thing.
I've been given a lot of mixed response on what constitutes Historical Fiction.
So, thank you very much.
 

Andythehuman

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She sounds like an awesome lady, and that's an awesome primary source to base your story on :)

Not at all - as long as she has given you permission to do so, and you're writing historical fiction.

More than likely. Even if you're writing narrative non fiction, it still needs to be true to your primary sources, and those sources probably need to be cited. But if you're writing something like fictional biography, or a story 'based on' true events, you have much more leeway - this might be what you're imagining?

That's a lovely intention, but you'd better get a move on... publishing moves at a glacial pace. You might see quicker - albeit smaller - results from self publishing.

Good luck :)
Thank you. She is an awesome lady, and the glacial pace of publishing is a very good point. She's not long for this world, given that intention. Self-Publishing it is... something I'm already exploring in a month or two.
Again, thank you.
 
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Andythehuman

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Hi Andy,

Like the others, I think adding the fiction shifts it to historical fiction ... "inspired by actual events." It would be a different audience, and possibly harder to trade publish (hard to say.)

Non fiction is queried on proposal, so you could, if you wanted, query it as a nonfiction proposal with plans of writing it that way if an agent was interested. It sounds like you want to write it up as fiction, which is queried after a project is completed, and so, this path comes with a higher risk of a lot of work for no return.

Whether fictionalizing would be uncouth depends on how your friend feels about your suggested changes, I think. I'd have a conversation with her about some of the details that you are considering adding. She may have given permission without thinking through what it is that really needs to be added.

Good luck! I'm an amateur and working through related concerns.
I had not considered her lack of consideration on what she was agreeing to. This is a very solid point, and I will get with her ASAP on that. Thank you for that.
Also, thank you for the publishing points. This is something I have absolutely zero experience with.
Good luck to you as well on your related issue.
 

Leenie

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Hi, Woolybear,

This is the first time I've seen the phrase "Non fiction is queried on proposal," as you used in your response to Andy. I believe I understand the second half of the sentence, but am not sure of the first. When/If you get a chance, would you let me know what it means? And thanks!
Non fiction is queried on proposal, so you could, if you wanted, query it as a nonfiction proposal with plans of writing it that way if an agent was interested.
 

CMBright

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With the caveat that I don't write historic fiction, my line in the sand would involve sources and research. If I'm writing about Abraham Lincoln, I'm going to be as accurate to the timeline and what we know of his actions and words as possible. If I'm writing about Sally the White House maid during the Lincoln administration, I'm going to make her anyone I want while I keep the timeline as accurate as possible.

Unless I'm writing time travel, then my time traveler might change things, but then it wouldn't be historic fiction anymore.
 

Catriona Grace

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Part of the challenge and the fun of writing historical fiction is fitting the story to the realities of the time period and not vice versa. Educated readers will notice, care, and harshly judge a novelist who reschedules the Battle of Shiloh for 1864 or anticipates the arrival of steam power by twenty years.

(Thus saith the reader who rolls her eyes when Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots spar over the dinner table in someone's so-called historical novel.)
 
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