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Richard Buxton: History and Fiction – Finding the Balance

by on October 26, 2018

Notes on Richard Buxton’s presentation by Merril Haeusler

Hatchery Writers were again treated to an informative and inspirational presentation on Saturday, 20 October, when Richard Buxton gave us some very useful and interesting insights into his writing as an Historical Novelist. Richard’s area of interest is the American Civil War and his first book, self published, tells the story of a young soldier in this time period. Richard explored a number of issues which he had considered when writing the book, Whirligig.

Historical Fact and Truth compared to a writer’s need to tell a story and entertain.

Richard felt that where possible a writer should reflect the historical fact but acknowledged there were times some events might be skewed in order to best fit the story. He recommended that where this be the case it should be noted at the end of the book so as not to mislead readers. He discussed the difference between pure historical writing, where facts are essential, to fiction writing set in a time and place which provides the atmosphere but not the historical fact. Where a writer draws the line is a personal decision but research into the period is crucial if a writer is to best capture the atmosphere of the time. The issue of how much a writer puts into a story and what historical facts and information are left out was also discussed. Richard reminded us we are writers of fiction, not historians, and so the balance needed to be found.

Believable Detail

Richard talked about the importance of research in order to make a narrative believable. He talked about reading widely oneself in order to gain inspiration and ideas, to explore the internet, look at source material and visit the places being written about. He talked about putting oneself in the place of the characters as a way of extending understanding and imagination. Some clear examples of intermingling detail in the narrative were given.

We have heard the old adage Less is More. Richard gave examples of how each sentence can tell the reader a great deal about the time, place and character, and said it was often the small details that enrich a story, rather than long passages of description.

Some useful contacts mentioned were:
Historical Novel Society
The Alliance of Independent Authors

Richard was encouraging about the pathway of self publishing and is currently writing his second book. For those who would like a good read, Whirligig: Keeping the Promise is available on Amazon – paperback £9.89 or Kindle £2.99.  https://www.richardbuxton.net/

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise was shortlisted for the 2017 Rubery International Book Award. The Rubery Prize is a prestigious international book award seeking the best books by indie writers, self-published authors and books published by independent presses.

A big ‘Thank you’ to Hatchery Writers member, Merril, for writing up these very helpful notes.

 

 

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