I wonder if there is such a thing as “total accurate history.” History is the compilation of facts that help explain events we want to remember. But is it possible to have all the facts, even in today’s world with our advanced technologies? I read a quote recently by a German poet from the Romantic period who went by the pen name Novalis. “Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.” However, too often the novel rushes in and makes a mess of things giving migraines to the angels of history.
Works of fiction are created and designed to fill us with all sorts of human emotions: awe, shock, tears, sorrow, etc. These very real emotions help to secure the characters of a story firmly into our memory. A fine-drawn fictional character may live much longer in the memory than an historical one. Unless, of course, the historical character is given enough human dimension based on historical events that draw the reader into the heart and soul of that character.
This is where one historical character may become a legend. A legend is presumed to have some basis in historical fact with real people or events. But historical fact can easily morph into a legend when the truth has been exaggerated to the point that real people or events have taken on a romanticized, larger than life quality.
In my recent novel The Singer of Israel the historical character of King David becomes an over-night legend the moment he slays a giant. His exploits are even turned into peans of praise. You know you’ve achieved legend status when an entire nation sings songs about you.
Regardless of my shortcomings as an artist, I have diligently attempted to capture the truth of the emotional lives of my characters and give them depth and meaning. History is tumultuous and fraught with misperception and misunderstanding. Even with time and distance the historical events and facts can remain distorted and difficult to understand. But when human emotions are expressed, even those emotions-by-design applied by an author to their characters, then historical characters really may live forever providing generation after generation of readers pleasure and understanding of who they are and who they might become.