Today is Richard III's birthday. Not that he's celebrating, I'm sure *g*, but it's important to note.
Over the weekend I've been rereading my ms which features Richard as a character. Part of me was hesitant to include him - what if I do him a disservice? But OTOH, I remember how Sharon Kay Penman's portrayal of Richard drew me in and started me on that particular road of study. NOT that I'm comparing my writing abilities to SKP's *g*, but I'd like to hope that if my ms does get pubbed one day that I might inspire someone to learn more about Richard.
Writing about real people from history does mean walking a very fine line, between expressing your personal opinions and staying within the bounds of historical possibility. Too often it's easy to take an extreme view of someone from the past and just run with it, however unless it's a work of fantasy, it's not very responsible. I prefer to work within the realms of actual history.
Richard is an especially difficult character to write about, he being one of the most extreme examples of what can happen when hyperbole is employed by writers (More and Shakespeare). It does tend to make those who believe in his innocence go to the other extreme and almost sanctify him. Tempting, but not conducive to giving any real historical perspective as readers will scoff as much at "Saint" Richard as they recoil from "Wicked" Richard.
As he is someone I have read a lot about, I felt fairly confident that I could create a balanced character. For that reason I only usually use real people in my mss if, as with Richard, I've done a good deal of research about them. Keeps me honest and forces me to really consider what I'm doing. In my first ms, I did at first employ the popular image of King John, yet after careful consideration and conversation with other historians, I realized that there really was more to this other wicked uncle than those who believe all Sellers and Yeats tell us about English history.
Now, back to the topic of the day - Happy Birthday, our Dickon!