The challenge of historical fiction

I’m sliding down the rabbit hole of research!

I ‘m making progress on my historic fiction short story, “The Goldlisters of Panama.” With a broad story outline and character arc, I have a good draft of the first quarter of the story, but––

Going in I knew this was a difficult genre. You need a lot of research, but how much is enough? With my target length of 20K words, I need to select scenes that convey the facts of the historical event, building of the Panama Canal, and I don’t want to slow down the journey of my fictional characters while playing out their lifechanging role in that effort. But I can’t let the piece grow to novel or even novella length. The challenge is finding the right balance of authorial narrative, and “showing scenes” for background, story arc, and character development.

Anybody faced that challenge? I’d love to hear from you.

Writers still need to read

I’ve been a little distracted lately—no blog post. But with good reason. My journey back into “Beach Music” by Pat Conroy slowed my writing down but I have been mesmerized with his scenic descriptions. How can you not put work aside to spend time with a man who describes his trip back into Charleston, SC thusly?

            “I breathed in the low country air as each mile took us further away from the industrial effluents that distilled in the bright sunshine of Savannah….I shall always remain a prisoner of war to this fragrant, voluptuous latitude of the planet, fringed with palms and green marshes running beside rivers for thirty miles at a time, and emptying out on low-lying archipelagoes running north and south along the coast before the Atlantic’s grand appearance.”

            “It was dark now and I looked out toward the river and the starry sky rinsed with the tin enamel light of a flickered, early moon.”

            And that’s to say nothing of the intriguing story line, and a bevy of wonderful characters, teasing you to follow the new mystery twist that seems to crop up in every other chapter.

            Of course, there is also the distraction of Hoda and Jenna’s guest informing me that I have been putting the table knives in the dishwasher the wrong way—blades up. They should be face down, spoons are up, dummy. Oh Crap!

            The dishwasher tip is just a “Lucky Strike Extra” (if that means anything to you—I know how old you are.) But really—you need to read Beach Music!