Real People in Fictional Stories

Charlene D’Avanzo: Reading Rhys Bowen’s latest “Royal Spyness” mystery (Peril In Paris) I was intrigued by the appearance of a historical person – Wallis Simpson – who reminds French police that she (Simpson) is the king of England’s fiancée and thereby rescues lead character Lady Georgina from a stint in jail.

Simpson, a storybook figure, is an intriguing addition to Bowen’s novel.

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, was an American socialite and wife of the former King Edward VIII. Their intention to marry and her status as a divorcée caused a constitutional crisis that led to Edward’s abdication. Edward renounced the British throne on December 10, 1936 in order to marry Simpson.

The bottom line advice I’ve read about parody is don’t go half-way. Make sure the work is clearly parody so that you can argue no one would reasonably assume it is true. In parody the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule.

In other words, if you decide to use a real historical figure or person in your novel you have to do it well.

Parody imitates noticeable features of an existing work in a comical way. Parodies comment on or make fun of the original and generally aim to amuse.  They strictly deal with just one subject at a time and tend to be less serious in nature. Parody usually is for the purpose entertainment and amusement, while satire can lead to intense social/political critiques.

The use of parody includes using imitation or emphasis that draws attention to specific people, events, features, plots, etc. that are strange or silly in nature in order to add or develop humor.

Finally, you can use real historical figures to give historical context/texture to the story but they are not typically protagonists or other main characters.

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1 Response to Real People in Fictional Stories

  1. Skye says:

    I just finished reading Bowen’s “A Royal Pain” in which Simpson also appears. I hadn’t considered using parody when introducing real-life characters in my historical mysteries–I’ve always presented them as true-to-life as possible, doing things they really did (such as Edward Hopper painting in Salem and Gloucester, MA, and Lindbergh putting on stunt flying displays), even using their actual quotes in dialogue. I can see the benefit of parody in creating humor, though. Thanks for the post,

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