Saturday, 15 March 2014

So Tony Benn, the man that many

loved and others loved to hate, has died. He was 88 - a remarkable age for someone who lived the sort of life he lived.
There will be plenty of other people who will write obituaries for him. I won't try. I don't know enough about him - although I do know who he was. A lot of Downunderites won't. Ask them who Margaret Thatcher was and even some of them my age will give you a blank look. (You might even get a blank look if you mention Tony Blair or Gordon Brown - and John Major is even less well known. Even some of our own Prime Ministers will be met with - "One of our Prime Ministers but I can't remember....")
But it made me wonder about something else. I am, for my sins, trying to write another book. Being a foolish sort of individual I prefer to make life difficult and write for children rather than adults. I also write in the past - at least far enough back that mobile phones, computers and other technology do not get in the way of things happening. Half the fun disappears if you can just pull the phone from your pocket and text someone. It sometimes means things can't happen.
I think we are in 1966 this time. The action is set between an imaginary middle Eastern country and Scotland. (There are reasons for that so don't tell me I should be writing about Australia.) I say "think we are in 1966) because I can adjust that if I need to.
I spent some time yesterday afternoon searching for a possible character. I could invent one - or I could have a real person. Having an imaginary person presents one sort of problem and having a real person presents another sort of problem. I need to work on it.
While historical figures from the past appear in fiction more recent figures appear less often. They get mentioned of course along the lines of "Prime Minister X..." or major world figures. There is always the danger of (a) getting facts wrong or (b) unintentionally libelling someone or (c) giving your readers the wrong impression without even doing (a) or (b).
Perhaps that is why so few real people appear as characters in children's literature set in the present day...I mean as active characters, not just mentioned in passing. But it is a challenge and it might be a useful one. I am going to work on it.
I know Alexander McCall-Smith successfully puts all sorts of real people into his books. It is fun trying to pick them out because some of them are what many people would think of as "ordinary" people. Nobody is ordinary of course.
I do wonder though who I can use and how far I can go. It's a challenge. It involves research. I may or may not do it.
If I do I will learn something more.


Helen Devries said...

I knew him for a time in the seventies...a kind honest gentleman who respected his principles.

catdownunder said...

I never met him Helen but he always interested me. I was at a meeting yesterday and was talking with the MP who belongs to the group. She commented that she had mentioned his death to a group of people here and "nobody knew who he was". That surprised me - and, I think, her.

widdershins said...

Write on!