I’ve been teaching a class about writing historical fiction recently. During the class, I try to stress the importance of researching not only events of the era in which you are writing, but also how people lived during that era. Even if you don’t use all of the information you research, what you discover could influence how your characters act.
In addition, you can discover wonderful nuggets of information that can add to the richness of your story.
I was researching an article today about a woman who fought with the Norwegian Resistance during WWII. It’s an interesting story, but the articles I found only referenced her as Mrs. Jorgen Hartman. It is the newspaper style of the time to reference married women in this was. However, my article is about her so I started trying to find out what her first name was.
I started trying to find her husband’s name and then her father’s. I found a couple interesting things right away before I even found her first name. Her husband’s uncle was Nils Bohr, who helped make the atomic bomb. I’m still trying to verify this since I thought her husband was Norwegian and Bohn was Danish.
Then I discovered that her father was also in military intelligence, although he seems not to have done field work, but he was involved in some major operations.
Then I found Mrs. Hartman’s first name (Norma), but I also discovered that she seems to have left Norway in 1945 by herself and remarried later in the year. That means she was either divorced or a widow.
I’m still trying to find out what happened, but if she was a widow, it begs the question as to what happened to her husband since he also helped her in the Resisitance. Was he caught and executed?
So now I’ve got another thread to try and unravel and my article seems to be growing in scope.
The searching can be a pain, but it is also fun, particularly when you start discovering things like I am finding. So don’t skip on your research, you won’t regret it.