Re-Writing History

Two things happened this week to send me into my “mulling this one over” state. The first was my novel was returned by the Alpha Reader and the second was a Facebook post in one of my writing groups that spurred a lot of discussion.

The Facebook post was a link to some famous female author calling women to task for how they portrayed females in historic fiction. The discussion that followed weighed in on many issues: were women strong or not? Are we doing a disservice to women by portraying them historically as strong when they weren’t? Isn’t fiction, well, fiction? Why doesn’t anyone ever tell men they can’t portray women a certain way and what are all these dang rules cropping up for writers every day?  Like I said, lots of discussion.

Number two: This is the first time I have used an Alpha Reader. You have heard me talk about Beta Readers…those are folks who read my work after about the tenth draft, when I feel it is getting close to being finished. They don’t proof or copyedit (although some can’t help themselves), but comment on any “glitches” in the story.

An Alpha Reader, on the other hand, looks at the first draft. She gives input at the fledgling stage about any part of the story that needs more or doesn’t need to be there at all. The flow, the characters, the direction, the message. The reason I haven’t used one before is that my first draft changes so much. But the one issue that is hindering my forward motion on a story is the revision. I have so many threads and make so many revisions that I make myself avoid working on the story. I LOVED the feedback from my Alpha Reader (thank you Cindy W.) and I am sure it is going to save me heartache as I cut some of those story threads now, rather than waiting until I have worked and re-worked them many times.

Anyway…one of the things about this next novel is the history I am researching for my topic. This story, as yet untitled, has history of the Anasazi living at the Bandelier cliff dwellings.  I had purchased six books when I started this story (five years ago!) and ALL are written by men. A long time ago. And the crazy thing is, Adolf Bandelier, a Swiss anthropologist, loved these people. The National park is named after him, right?

My story has a couple of strong women. One is a modern women and the other is an Anasazi women living in 1100. The issue for me is that the written history I have is terribly bias. So much so that I can’t believe there hasn’t been a movement to change the name of the park. Adolf Bandelier writes about the original people as if they were ignorant. He admits it was a matriarch society, but makes the women brain dead with no power. There is such a “white man” tone that I had to put the book down.

So here is what I have been mulling over: If we only have written history and that written history is bias and how do we even know what is true because EVERYTHING is someone’s point of view…then…well…what?

In the mean time I am working up an author’s statement about how much I am fictionalizing history and I am seeking out a native docent who can give me the skinny on the history of the area from a different perspective. A more accurate one, I believe.