Author’s Tool #15… Reality Checks, Early and Often

stockvault-nyc118341After nearly getting bowled over and trampled into little, messy writer-pieces this weekend, I knew it was time for another Author’s Tool.

While the relative ease of research these days can be a boon to an author, the influx of information can get rather… well, intense would work. (Painfully belittling with a side of “Get me the heck out of here!” is another option.)

This is particularly true when working on historical fiction.

Case in point: Just as I was finally getting at ease with the whole life-in-the-American-Revolution thing, I make the mistake of glancing at another research source. I nearly got blown away by all I realized I hadn’t known.

I panicked… Yeah, yeah, big surprise for Ms. Chronic Panic Disorder, I know. But trust me, this could easily happen to the most sane of you out there.

My mind went many places, including:

How dare I even consider writing a story about Revolutionary War-era New York City when I hadn’t known that the Liberty House “prison” was located on the west side of Broadway, directly across from the Common (today City Hall Park)?

Or that there was a ferry wharf just down from Bear Market?

Or that the Provost House faced Chatham Street (now Park Row)?

Or…

Alright, I’m sure you get the picture. These tidbits of historical fact can quickly drown a naive author. You may go into the story promising you’ll be as “true” to the time period as you can possible be, but reality will sooner or later hit you square in the face and send you sprawling.

So, if you don’t want to end up whining over your sore butt all the time, call for the reality check early on.

Even if you were standing in the middle of Broadway as General Howe’s troops came marching in, you still wouldn’t know everything.

It’s impossible.

So, give yourself a freaking break!

And here ends this essay on “Sleeping with Historical Inaccuracy and Loving It.”

Until tomorrow…

Chloe

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