Historical fiction vs Historical fact

It was a simple statement of fact, that really should not have thrown me as much as it did. While researching events for the years of my next book I came across this entry for the year 858

858 – King Kenneth Mac Alpin of Scotland died. He is succeeded by his 46 year old brother Donald I.

Now I’ll be honest, however stupid it sounds. That first sentence upsets me, but obviously I know the dates for my characters, so I was expecting to see it. It was that second sentence that really threw me. Domnall’s 46? Really? When the hell did that happen?

This really brought home to me how fixed these characters are now for me. To me Domnall will always be that irrepressible young man in his twenties and early thirties. Placing him older than that just doesn’t seem right.

I suspect there’s now rather a lot of ‘facts’ in my mind that are nothing of the sort. Some of them are reasonable inferences, some are complete invention. None deserve the label ‘fact’, yet I think it would be difficult now to persuade me otherwise. For example The Girl from Brittia is a Wuffinger and Wehha’s sister. In reality it’s a good possibility, but very far from fact. She might be Wuffa’s sister. She might be Wilhelm’s. But for me there’s no doubt that she was Wehha’s.

Apart from the damage to my historical knowledge, it probably doesn’t matter if fact and fiction are mixed in my mind. It might even make my characters more believable if I truly believe everything I’ve written.

But what happens if I have stories that overlap? The story I’m currently working on takes place in the years that make up the last few years of Cinaed’s (Kenneth Mac Alpin) reign, the years of Domnall’s (Donald I) and the early years of Causantin’s (Constantine I). It’s a certainty that the characters of the two stories never met, but they would almost definitely have known about each other. It would, therefore, be completely reasonable to mention Cinaed, Domnall or Causantin in this new book. Yet I already know I won’t.

858 – King Kenneth Mac Alpin of Scotland died. He is succeeded by his 46 year old brother Donald I.

Given how much this statement of fact bothers me, for now I’ll leave Cinaed and Domnall where they were in ‘Kenneth’s Queen’, back in the 830s and 40s as confident young men who feel like they rule the world and allow them to achieve, in my own mind at least, a kind of immortality.

‘Kenneth’s Queen’ is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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