My stories very much blend the history of the real world with what happens in their universe.
My first novel takes place in 2002 because of some of these elements. The characters don't work if they are removed from that time.
Etienne and Basilie must be children of post World War II. Basilie has to be a corporate raider circa 1980s. Adelaide can only rise as a supermodel in the pre-waif days and in the shadow of beauties like Cindy Crawford.
More importantly, Etienne's uncle dies in Algeria. His father probably served in Indochina. He completed his national service in a post colonial Djibouti, which means he didn't see the action his father and uncles did.
I was reading Frantz Fanon yesterday, and as a anti-colonial philosopher AND a psychiatrist, he had some interesting notes about the impact of warfare on the Algerians and the French alike during the war for Algerian independence.
I realized, reading these notes, that I had finally found my link to Uncle Gaston's service, conduct and death. This excites me.
The intricate crossing of fiction and history allows the author to comment on the actions of nations and the state of society.
I've already written a short character sketch to introduce Khadijah, who may challenge everything Etienne believes about his family, his country's "civilizing mission" of yesteryear and what it means to be "French."
It may help him do what's right in the aftermath of his own actions.