word craft


Commingling fact and fiction

Sophia's WarThe most dif­fi­cult aspect of Sophia’s War is the com­min­gling of fact and fic­tion. The sto­ry of Bene­dict Arnold’s trea­son, and John André’s fate, is not just well known, it has been researched and detailed to an extra­or­di­nary degree. One of the books I used to research the event pro­vid­ed pho­tographs and descrip­tions of every­where André went dur­ing that extra­or­di­nary moment—virtually step by step. More­over, my attempt to describe New York City dur­ing the British occu­pa­tion (1776–7183) is based on detailed research that has been done by oth­ers. It is all as “cor­rect” as I could write it. 

But Sophia her­self, and her sto­ry, is very much fic­tion. How can the two con­nect? It is because as the his­to­ri­ans of the events record, there are two key moments in the Arnold/André saga that have nev­er been sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly illu­mi­nat­ed. His­to­ri­ans speak of “luck,” “fate,” and “coin­ci­dence.” Per­haps. But it is just at those points that I have been able to cre­ate a char­ac­ter, motive, and means, for these mys­te­ri­ous events to be explained. Not the least of what makes it all work is that Sophia does not want to be noticed, is not noticed, and indeed, can­not be noticed in the con­text of who and what she is—an inde­pen­dent young woman. It’s very much like that won­der­ful book title, Anony­mous Was a Woman

Ralph Wal­do Emer­son said (if I have it right) “His­to­ry is biog­ra­phy.” Sophia’s War is Sophia’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Just don’t look for her in his­to­ry books. You can only find her here. “The writer’s task,” as I once heard Paula Fox say, “is to imag­ine the truth.”

3 thoughts on “Commingling fact and fiction”

  1. Loved this! Thanks for shar­ing. I’m work­ing on a Span­ish-Amer­i­can war nov­el right now so this helps.


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