Historical Fiction and the Suspension of Disbelief

When I first made the decision to try my hand at historical fiction I knew there would be a lot of research involved. But since I find WWII fascinating I imagined this would not be such a big issue for me. And it wasn’t. I enjoy hunting through history to find little tidbits that I can put in my fiction.

That being said, I recognize that the opening chapters of Persona require the reader to suspend disbelief in a major way. While the SS Ceramic was a real ship that was sunk by a German U-Boat in December 1942, Megan Shepherd is a fake creation and her survival of said sinking is absolutely made up.

That isn’t so much where the suspension of disbelief comes in, though. It’s when she’s picked up by the enemy and said enemy doesn’t immediately ship her off to a work camp somewhere that I know I’m walking a very, very tight line.

There’s a part of me that keeps suggesting I scrap the first few chapters and have Megan already in Germany when war breaks out. That would take care of the belief problem. She was in Germany, the war began. Borders closed. She was stuck.

But when push comes to shove, this book isn’t really about WWII. It’s about one woman having to decide who she is. WWII is just the vehicle by which she arrives at her decision making point and what better way to start her on that journey than by making the war very vivid and very real right up front?

Historians and such might murder me for it, just like scientists would likely enjoy stringing me up for the space travel I created in Tapped and Deviation, but this is just one of those places where my instincts are telling me I need to bend the rules a bit.

2 thoughts on “Historical Fiction and the Suspension of Disbelief

  1. Hi Aimee, I read Persona and enjoyed it, and I think the liberties you took with historical accuracy worked within the context of the story. I expect that, apart from those people who really know their history, it wouldn’t have stood out too much. You’ve done your research and justified what you’ve done by putting a sympathetic person in the right place to open the way for Megan to enter Germany.

    I hit a major obstacle in a book I read recently (modern day setting so it wasn’t even that it would be hard to do some basic research). Now, maybe it’s only because I work in IT, but there was something that was just so glaringly wrong or unlikely that it just broke me out of the story. No matter how much I tried to get back into it that one piece of detail just bugged me for the rest of the book.

    1. Thank you, Paul! I completely understand the little details that sometimes jolt you right out of a story. I’ve read several books that do the same to me.

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