I’m currently writing a story for a friend, set during the Battle of Britain. I spent a chunk of today researching; I’ve been looking at timings, airfields, personalities, aircraft, radar detection and other interesting bits. I have previously studied the Battle both at school and as part of my military history studies, but it’s been really nice to refresh my memory with an eye to the details that I can use in a story.
However, I’ve got a personal debate going on. Setting the story in a historical period is wonderful – there’s so much detail and the world is already there, the scene is already set, and all I have to do is add the personality and action. However, it also complicates things a lot. It has to be right. I want to use real places, real events, and just tweak them…but it means I do need to know the aircraft formations, the call signs, and the day-to-day realities.
One slight downside (or possibly not) is that the use of historical fact has put a few holes in Nick’s cliched film plot. I can’t do a dramatic death scene, and I can’t fit in some of the details like bad weather. But I think it’s going to be a better story for a dose of reality. He might disagree, but then he asked me to write it! (He did say that as long as there weren’t aliens in it, I could mostly do what I want. Mwahaha).
The other problem is that if I use real people, they’re…well, real. They had personalities. They had families. But, at the same time, they did exist in that time period, and the events I’m using were shaped by the people there at the time. So how far can I take this? What’s the line that I can draw between using the reality and ensuring it’s fiction?
I’m still in the scribbling-and-notes stage of the story, so we’ll see how it continues to take shape – but I’m definitely enjoying the challenge!