After an on-and-off research effort over some fifteen years for a historical fiction piece on a medieval person, I'm finally close to the actual writing.
The most common problem in such an effort is as one professor called it, "finding a way in" to the piece. This means: start as the person is born, perhaps. Or in media res, with his/her early life out of the way, begin with a significant act or event of the life. Some might even start at a person's death and then re-live it in some fashion.
image via studioknow.com
Another concern is the actual structure of the piece: Is it a "linear" piece, i.e., moving along chronologically? If it begins in medias res, how do you determine flashbacks? How many, and what events do you present? A lot of this is determined by the narration: First person, present or past tense? Third person?
I decided to go with a fictional character, who attempts to "explain" the famous person's life – the Gatsby approach via a first person peripheral point of view. But still, how to structure it? As my research boils down, it seems apparent that I'm going to tell a "frame story," i.e., one story within another – in this case the fictional person tells his own story, but it must include that of the famous person, whose life has affected the peripheral, fictional character to a dramatic degree.