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Fiction versus History

January 31, 2012

According to, Fiction is defined as: “the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, especially in prose form.” See:

This post is going to talk about my upcoming project and how I intend on approaching it. To start, I’d like to share a second quote: “For a lie to be plausible it should have a basis in fact.” Or words to that effect. Essentially it says that for a lie to be believable, an element of truth should be used to help sell the made up part(s).

I look at fiction writing much in the same light. I think I have mentioned this in a previous post. I am creating a complete fabrication, a work of imagination. If it should happen to bear a resemblance to anything real, that is just lucky happenstance because it ought to make the storytelling more immersive.

My steampunk series takes place in Harrisburg, some years after the American Civil War (1870s). I chose the time and location because the time is significant in the industrial and political history of Harrisburg. I picked the city because I lived there for several years and I really love the location.

Several authors have put notes in their works explaining that they are taking huge liberties with history. I intend on doing the same, except more so. Something like:

“Dear History Buff. Thank you very much for purchasing my book. Please be forewarned though, any actual Accurate Historical Facts are purely coincidence and are not intentional. The work presented in the pages that follow is made up. That is why you found this book in the Fiction section (as opposed to the Historical section.) Other than picking a date and location I made no real attempt at ‘getting this thing as accurate to history as possible.’ In fact, I went quite the opposite. We may as well just agree that this tale isn’t even the correct universe (subscribing to a multi-verse theory now…), you know, the one that you are standing in. I apologize and can only say: I’m sorry several times. Sally Forth, warned and prepared for the butchery of history that follows! Love and stuff, s.”

Of course I’ll need to tweak the disclaimer a bit before going to press.

My outlook is this: I have a setting: date and location. Harrisburg in the 1870s. My insignificant research shows that this is a time of significance for the city both as an industrial location and political capital. Having lived in the city for several years and the surrounding communities for several more I feel comfortable using the landmarks (the river, train tracks, islands etc.) The rest of it, well that will all be up to my imagination. The seed of truth (location, setting ) is planted and to that I will add the fertilizer (my imagination) and see what grows.

Writing fiction is not always reliant on being accurate with history. It is dependent on a good idea though. That is what I think I am bringing to the table. Anyway, right or wrong, that’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes. This is not to say I will not consider history or skip some research. I just am not going to obsess over it.

Thanks for reading!



From → Writing

  1. Enjoyed going through the project
    The best part of a good fiction is that they may be way ahead of present or on a different route altogether but still believable….That base has to have some concrete facts on which the whole web is built…am so loving this journey…a book taking shape in front you
    you dont get to witness it every day :)

    • Glad you are enjoying the trip. I am certainly having a lot of fun with it myself. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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