Secondary Characters -The Fun Part of Writing Historical Fiction

I’m pretty new to this entire writing thing.  I just released my first novel in April, and am shooting for another in October.  It’s been amazing to discover the stories that are inside me and to get those stories in print.

My writing of Revolutionary War historical fiction focuses on my own ancestors (or those of my wife).  The books are the products of my own genealogical research.  I have sought out all of the Revolutionary War Patriots that I could find in my family tree, discovered every possible document and element of their life stories that I could find, and then used those facts as the “skeleton” for a novel that tells about their Rev War experiences.

Of course, it’s all fiction … but it is EXTREMELY historical.  I want to place them in the life situations where they actually lived.  I want to have them in the battles where I know they fought or at least highly suspected that they fought.

But as I’ve moved further into my adventure in writing I am discovering the extra-special joy of secondary characters.  These are sometimes real people (names that I have discovered on historical records), or people that I construct to help bring the story to life.

One such character in my upcoming novel, Partisans and Refugees, is named Frank.  I discovered Frank while researching my 5th great-grandfather and Revolutionary War Patriot Robert Hammock.  Frank was a slave who belonged to this ancestor of mine.  He received Frank from his maternal grandfather at almost the same time that he was married to his wife, Milliner Jackson, in Virginia.  The grandfather’s will describes the bequest … “I leave my grandson, Robert Hammock, the negro boy named Frank.”

As far as I know, this is the only mention … the only known record in the entire universe … that Frank even existed.

But as I have developed my story, Frank has grown up into a man.  In my story Frank, at the age of 18-20, plays a prominent role in the Hammock family.  And as an homage to the untold hundreds (perhaps thousands) of men of color who served the Patriot cause in the American Revolution, I place Frank in the center of the action.  And before it’s all over … Frank will do something amazing, life-changing, and heroic.

And I can do that, you know … because it’s my story.  It’s coming out in October.  Partisans and Refugees.  The incredible story of the Robert Hammock family, a clan that suffered incredibly at the hands of the British and Tories in Georgia, but overcame tyranny to reclaim their freedom on the frontier.

With the help of an incredibly brave man named Frank …

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