Sunday, June 19, 2011

#Trust30: Should I Write about Mrs. Tom Thumb?

Lavinia Warren. Library of Congress descriptio...Image via Wikipedia
I have an idea for a novel that I have been sitting on since I finished The Thief of Todays and Tomorrows in 2009. It would be a historical novel blending the life story of Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, better known as Mrs. Tom Thumb, with the fairy tale Thumbelina. As it happens, this nineteenth-century celebrity’s life follows the flow of Thumbelina quite well, and I’ve had numerous people tell me that it sounds like an interesting book.

My biggest roadblock on this project is the historical research aspect. I’m stymied as to how much should be fiction and how much should be biographical. Should I simply change the name of the main character and make the whole thing fiction, or should I try to stick – at least somewhat – to the facts? All of my other books are cut from the whole cloth of my imagination. I’ve never tried to weave more than the basic facts of a time period into my work – certainly not anyone who could be recognized as a real person.

Still, the idea lingers, no matter how many times I’ve tried to put it aside. I wonder: should I treat it like any other book? I tend to take a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach to writing. How obligated am I to historical facts? I have read Mrs. Tom Thumb’s autobiography, such as it is. She seems to have wearied of the subject and ended up pulling together a compilation of other people’s writings and articles regarding her life rather than add anything of herself to the story. Yet I know this woman – she fought the perceptions of the times that said her small size meant that she was less intelligent than “normal” people. She chose to capitalize on her size rather than think of it as a liability. She met royalty and presidents and impressed them with her remarkable charm.

Maybe it’s time for me to stop making excuses for not writing this book. Maybe this should be my NaNoWriMo project come November. This is a Tinkerbell moment: if you believe in this book, leave me a note of encouragement.

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