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My blog has been languishing since I finished by Diploma of Family History in August. So I thought for the sake of posting something I could post about what I am trying to write at the moment.
The story I am currently working on is based on one of the more eccentric branches of my family. So how should I write it? I wondered whether I would just write their very colourful story. After all, it is all there in the newspapers if one cared to look. But I must confess to always feeling a bit ill at ease about telling true stories where the details might not be commonly known. And particularly if they are not exactly favourable or complimentary to the family history.
The other consideration when writing stories such as this, is how to fill in the gaps? There will be plenty of facts that I don’t know. As in all historical writing, one has to draw some conclusions from the available facts and the context of the time period in which the events occurred. These could be very close to the truth but there is no specific evidence to back them up.
So, rightly or wrongly, I have chosen to write this story as a piece of historical fiction based on the the wonderful diversity of these characters who were my ancestors. This will also give me more freedom to embellish the story and not have to worry about accuracy, for example, dates when parts of the story happened.
I have recently enjoyed reading two books written in this style based loosely on the authors’ family histories. The first was In a Great Southern Land by Mary-Anne O’Connor which tells the story of an Irish family who immigrated to Australia, one of whom met and fell in love with an English convict girl. The second is The Secret River by Kate Grenville about a man who was transported to Australia, accompanied by his wife and children, and their subsequent life after taking up land on the Hawkesbury River.
Now that I had made that decision I had to disguise the real characters. Change their names. How would I decide what to call a whole family and the various other characters that will feature in the story. After giving this problem some thought, I googled English and Welsh surnames from the 1880’s and then popular boys and girls names from the same period. Naming them actually became a simple part of the process.
It is very much still a work in progress. For one thing, I don’t know how the story will end……