Saturday, September 19, 2009

Facts and fiction

I once read a historical fiction series that concluded abruptly at the end of the third book (6 had been advertised and planned). The author explained in a brief note:

"Having been compelled by history to kill off my favorite character," he said (I've always loved that line!), he couldn't go on with the series.

This is kind of happening to me-- I'm writing a novel about a niece of Jane Austen's. Her mother dies, and I just don't want to go on and on about that. It (like early death in real life!) is a shock and completely interrupts the story, that's unavoidable in both cases.....but I don't want it to take over the story, either.

In books that are all fiction, people just leave out these kinds of things--which is probably why, although ALL of Jane Austen's brothers lost their first wives to death, this never happens in any of her books (lots of things happen in my book, though, that she would never include --we go to places she didn't). Just as most novels of the period never include children dieing and they did, often -- the only one I can think of that includes it is BARRY LYNDON; and I never read it, just saw the movie....anyway I want this book to be true, but I want it to be a novel with form and shape and A GOOD STORY, too.

So what I've done is let the mother die, have the child react, then skip ahead in time, to when it's just sort of underneath everything but not dominating Cassy's consciousness. What do you think? Can you do that in a kid's book?

Well, I HAVE done it, and what I should do is just give myself permission--but it would help to know what other people think about that choice.

6 comments:

Anna Alter said...

I like it when a story skips around in time like that, it sort of leaves you to fill in the gaps. I don't think I've seen it done in a kid's book, but I don't see why you can't. It seems to make sense in this case, since you don't want the death of her mother to take over the story.

alvina said...

Sure, you can do that! Of course, it's all in the execution, but I believe I've seen that done before...

Libby Koponen said...

Thanks, Anna and Alvina. That is definitely reassuring and helpful.

Bethany Grace said...

If the opinion of an amateur author/experienced reader means much, I actually prefer it when the story moves on beyond the obvious. It would be cliche to dwell on the pain the child feels throughout the entire plot because it's already an understood attribute in their character. I think it would be redundant to continually point it out that- shocker-the death of the parent greatly effected them.

Libby Koponen said...

Goos point, Bethany! Thanks.

Grace Lin said...

In the book "Dancing Shoes" by Noel Streatfeild, it is a bit like that. The mother dies early on, you see Rachel and Hilary devastated--but the rest of the book is the two of them at their Aunt Cora's dancing school. Not exactly like yours, but similar. And I (and many others) love that book, so I bet it will work with yours as well.