As much as I love historical fiction, writing this genre doesn’t come without its bumps and bruises. This morning I was writing a scene tucked nicely between fiction and reality, blending my fictional friends with real-life individuals from the past. Just when one minor character was starting to really charm everyone, I discovered one tiny, yet significant detail about him.
As history is told, Henry Younger – family-man, farmer, mayor, businessman – was shot on his way to Kansas City in 1862. The year is the story-changer. The first chapter of my book opens in 1863, a year after Henry’s family would have grieved his death. So, needless to say, Henry could not be standing in his mercantile chatting with my other character in 1863.
I was surprised at how sad this little bit of news hit me. I had already known Henry died young, but I had hoped to introduce him to readers before that happened. I had hoped to share his friendly company with you all. Instead, I have to hit the “backspace” button over our time together. I must turn my focus towards my other characters and let them fill the gap where Henry might have stood. Some of these characters had to cope with his loss in real life. I will write them with strength to bear it once more.
Henry may have only lived a day on the page of my manuscript, but I appreciated his presence while he was there. In that fleeting text of mine, he swept into the front room of his mercantile, a hard-working man flustered over the women in his life – his wife of 32 years and 8 young daughters. He offered my protagonist a smile and a warm welcome just when she needed it.
I may have had to erase their sweet conversation, but his mercantile will stand in his place throughout the story and his wife and children will be my main character’s dearest friends.
Lord-willing, when my story gets published someday, I hope you’ll keep a lookout for Henry. I still made a little room for him in the end. After all, how could I not mention the father and husband of a significant family from history and from my own story as well?
It was nice seeing you, Henry.