This stained glass window photo is from the church I attended as a child and remained a member until it closed in 2011. Revisiting the church a little over a year ago started me on this journey–to write about the church and the people, their struggles, tragedies and triumphs.
I’m staring at the collection of research what will be a historical fiction about Armenians—two file boxes full plus a two-foot pile of books and a loose pile of miscellaneous resources. I’m excited about the collection, but also daunted by the work that will be needed to pull out the gems that will both do justice to history and keep a reader reading. My research spans 120 years. Modern day attention spans are measured in nanoseconds.
War and Peace was 13,095 pages in 10 volumes. That was the longest I could find. But it doesn’t take a Mensa member to recognize that a book that long will not sell well in the 21st century. And I’d probably be dead before it was finished anyway.
The historical fiction I’m currently reading spans 32 years. The one before that covered about 10 years. Pillars of the Earth covered 50 years. Gone With the Wind followed the characters through the American Civil War and into reconstruction—probably 10-15 years tops. Recently I’ve read a few books that span several decades but connect past to present with multi-year gaps.
But 120 years?
I suppose it could be a multi-book historical story. It would be tricky and would have to track back and forth in time to show connections between the immigrants and first, second and third generation family members. AND the characters and their stories would need to be particularly compelling. ALL of them.
I could limit the story that is in my head across 60-70 years. That’s still long. But possibly doable. The tricky part would be ensuring that critical story lines aren’t shortchanged.
What would you do?