Except for the actual quotes taken down by people who were present at the time they were spoken, no one ever really knows what any historical figure has ever said. It is assumed that, because of some diaries or literary works penned by these famous people, that they had certain attitudes and attributes and might just have easily spoken this way or that. When movies and stories about famous people are made, there is a vast amount of artistic license taken because conversations between these famous people and others in their lives are all conjecture. So, how does one get historical accuracy with conjecture and make it work? The following should help.
Lots of Research and Fact Checking
If you are trying to write historical fiction (which is essentially historical facts mixed with conjecture in order to produce conversation between characters that might have happened), then you need to do a lot of research and fact checking. For example, say that you wanted to write a book about the Founding Fathers and their views on the separation of church and state. To write this separation of church and state book, you would have to dig deep into historical texts, biographies, and autobiographies to find the attitudes of the Founding Fathers on this very subject.
Then you would have find out if any of them met at different times and in different places to discuss the same or similar topics. This is your historically accurate jump-off point. How their conversation went as they met at the town hall, in the courthouse, at the tea and coffee house in the square, etc. is all on you, since nobody knows how the Founding Fathers' conversations would have started, nor how they would have rolled around to this particular subject. That is where conjecture and artistic license come in to create your work of historical fiction. It is akin to writing a research paper, but adding supposed and well-crafted conversation of the historic figures into it.
Finding Blank Areas of History
As you research, you may find that there are blanks here and there. Benjamin Franklin went to France to seek assistance, but the historians could not find much information on what he did with his free time while he was there. Thomas Paine wrote a lot, but what about the stuff he did not publish? George Washington was a Mason of the highest order under Grand Master, but there is nothing that tells of when he attended his lodge or what he did there. This is all blank stuff in history, which you can fill in when you write.
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