I saw this article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper and thought I’d share it as there is a new movie coming out about Marilyn Monroe and also some of the comments echo the issues I come across when writing historical fiction involving real people. In case it’s not obvious, I’m thinking about Hollywood Bilker where Marilyn appears, among others.
The film has yet to be released so I can’t possibly comment on its content, but I will admit that there can end up being a tension between the facts I write about and the fiction I construct around them. In particular, I make up dialogue as there are no transcripts of conversations for me to rely on between real people and, say, Alex Cohen.
And there is the timeline. The difficulty I face sometimes is that the structure of the novel doesn’t match the events that happened. Inciting incidents need to happen earlier than their consequences. Sometimes reality gets in the way and there have been rare occasions when I have altered the timing of things that befall minor characters.
I think long and hard before I do so. If I can bend my fiction around the rocks of reality then I do, but sometimes you wished the world had been different. The great thing about fiction is that you can do just that.
For the record, I have no idea about the circumstances of Marilyn Monroe’s death. All I know for sure is that she sang Happy Birthday and she knew Jack and Bobby Kennedy. The rest you can make up yourself.