Friday, 29 July 2011

Writing Faction

I've heard it argued that trying to combine true facts of history with fiction doesn't work. Well I'm doing it anyway and loving it! My writing began with quite a few years of researching my family history and discovering that my ancestors in Australia go back to the First Fleet. I learned so much about my family, my roots, and the beginnings of our nation of Australia - facts I didn't take in at school and wasn't that interested in. However, the stories contained in our history are not only interesting but inspiring and challenging. They are stories I believe we need to be reminded of. And so it was in early 2000 I decided to begin to write some of these stories into historical fiction; combining all that I learned from my family research and historical research with my understanding of human nature and relationships, to produce stories about people's struggle to survive hardship, loss and change, their determination to overcome, start again, forgive, love, find faith and make something worthwhile of their lives. 

I now have five of these stories on my shelves in print, with a sixth to arrive soon. I have had many people tell me that they have been inspired, they have learned about our Australian history, and they have been challenged to grow in their own lives. That alone makes writing worthwhile.

Recently I was holidaying in England and stayed a couple of nights in Lincoln, where two of my ancestors were charged with theft in the 1770s and sentenced to be transported to Australia on the First Fleet. There I was able to walk the cobbled streets of the old part of Lincoln where William and Mary would have roamed, attempting to survive by picking pockets. I went through the old goal where they were held before they were transported. I met a woman in the bookshop there who is part of a group of local historians who was thrilled to take a copy of my book 'Mary's Guardian', and read about two of the convicts who were expelled from her hometown so long ago and who found a new life on the other side of the world. I felt that in some small way I had taken William and Mary home where their story could show that out of terrible situations sometimes comes wonderful blessings.

This experience reminded me of the power of the written word. I'd started with some barely legible handwritten documents about transported convicts in 1788, and ended with a story of survival, faith and redemption that can now be read or downloaded on a Kindle anywhere in the world.
But the power of the written word is not new, is it? This journey for me has helped me appreciate once more the power of God's word. Thousands of years ago, men inspired by God began to write down the stories of their people and what God was doing in their lives. These stories were brought together in what we know as the scriptures so that the central message of God to the world can be seen through these stories and passed down from generation to generation. We should never ceased to be amazed at this power of the written word! It's lifechanging! In a time now when the written word can be transported around the world in seconds and can be used for such evil manipulation, corruption and abuse, I'm so grateful that as Christian writers we can still use the power of words for good, for inspiration, for challenge, and to bring glory to God. I want to encourage all of you who write to show God's love and power. Let's not give up doing this good work! We can trust that God's spirit will use it for His purposes in the lives of peope He loves. What a blessing! 


  1. Carol. Thanks for such an interesting post. My forebears were also on that first fleet but as a doctor. I look forward to reading your stories. Jo

  2. Hi Carol. I must say I am looking forward to the day I can sit with you over a cuppa and find out which parts were fact and which were fiction (apart from the obvious of course)! :) You melded it all together so well. I love that we have the power to change lives, literally at our fingertips.

  3. Great post, Carol. I'm afraid I'm not a history rreader. This is possibly due to the lack of interest in which history was taught to me. However, I agree with you that no matter what genre we write in, our words have the power of changing people's lives.

  4. Thank God for the written word. The pen is certainly mighty. Carol, you're so right, the introduction of the World Wide Web offers us so much more opportunity to make more of a difference than our predecessors would have believed possible. I'm glad we're all making the most of it.

  5. Who ever said fiction and true facts of fiction done mix has never read Gilbert Morris's books!
    I loved Mary's Guardian its one of my top 10 books of the year in fact in the top 5. I loved it and I loved it for its history. We didn't learn much about our history at school. We did learn more history of South Australia and at one stage I could draw a map of SA with out looking at a map. but I only remember one teacher in grade 4 really teaching history.
    I enjoyed todays post

  6. Thanks for the comments. I can never really be sure what the line between the facts and the fiction I write is. Once I begin to imagine the events and experiences in a character's life, given the reality around them, who can say how close I come to the truth? Maybe in heaven I'll meet up with some of my ancestors and find out?

  7. Love this post, Carol. As I was adopted, I've had to learn about a past I didn't know existed. It's been an interesting journey finding out about a new family, their likes and dislikes. And then there's my Christian family. Those brothers and sisters in Christ that are another adopted family.

    I love learning about what happens beneath the surface we call life. :)

  8. Carol, it's great you were able to visit the English town of your ancestors and share your book with the locals. Many of my favourite historical novels are based on real life facts and I love learning about history through reading fiction.

  9. Faction, eh? Well, that's a great answer you've furnished me with, Carol! Mostly to folk who say with raised brows, "Oh you write...fiction?" And I'll wait for their answer:)

  10. Great post Rita! Doesn't visiting the birthplace of our ancestors hold something priceless for us intrepid travellers?

    In 2007, my mother, my daughter and I all went to Greece to visit Mum's hometown and discover where so many of her stories take place. Then, Mum then took us to my Dad's part of Greece where we made similar discoveries. I had many spine shiver moments when the stories I'd heard most of my life, came alive as I stood on ground I'd only dreamed about.

    I'd written about their lives in Greece even before I visited there... and now that I have, all I want to do is return for more of the same.
    It doesn't take much hunting in yesterday's closet to find great writing inspiration. I can tell you are like me! We have a box full of dress ups, waiting to be played with.