I’m trying to write a play at the moment about real people and events, and over the last couple of days of work, bits of it have flown rather pleasingly freely, as real events have dovetailed very nicely with the themes I wanted to explore, and the lead character’s voice seems to have emerged nicely as an amalgam of what he probably was like really, what we’d like him to have been like and what will with luck be dramatically interesting.
The one tricky part of the process is that while the main cast is about ten years dead there are some very important figures in the narrative who are thankfully still with us and can’t be replaced by fictional stand-ins without devaluing the whole piece. So, I’m having to write them with an eye on the real people at some point seeing my version of them, which is a delicate exercise because I’m having to be partial to give my version of them some shape whilst also being extremely fair and kind. You wear these hats with any character you write, of course- trying to see them through their own eyes, those of others and through your own. It’s just a bit strange imagining the characters having a right of reply.
There are conversely, important characters in the real events who’ve since died who I’m trying to exclude in my retelling because their personalities mean they simply can’t be walk-ons in some one else’s drama. Once they emerge the story will become theirs, so I'm having to keep them in the wings. It’s a funny business writing about your heroes.