One of the hardest things about writing historical fiction is keeping extraneous facts out of the book. Those lovely anecdotes about the origins of this and that, the fascinating details that take a paragraph to explain — they all must go.
Much as I love history (and I am the original research geek), the story comes first.
Still, I mourn my darlings. What hit the dustbin this week: eight lines of snappy dialogue about the Levellers.
Amazing people, the Levellers: In the 1640s, they had the courage to argue that every man should have a vote, that sovereignty should rest with the House of Commons (not the king or lords), and that there should be freedom of worship for everyone. Wild ideas back in the seventeenth century. And sadly the Levellers paid a heavy price for their originality: Their movement was put down by force, their leaders imprisoned and killed.
But the ideas live on.
I’d love to have the Levellers in my WIP, especially as one of its themes is resistance to tyranny and speaking up for yourself. But I couldn’t afford to give them a subplot of their own, not in this book. (Which is historical fantasy, rather than straight historical fiction — and has a lot of high adventure and magic in it.) So I settled for the eight lines. And now the eight lines, too, must go — because they detract from the thrust of the scene as a whole.
Arrgh. But at least I can pay tribute to the Levellers here.
What darlings have you murdered, historical or otherwise? I’d love to hear.