Sharon Pollock took inspiration from the real-life event of Lizzie Borden's murder of her parents in Fall River, Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Pollock, who experienced abuse in her own marriage, took many liberties in fictionalizing the event, and indeed, little is actually known about the events surrounding the murder. However, she also completed a great deal of research to try and understand all of the angles in the case.
On her relationship to the material, Pollock told The Hatchet, A Journal of Lizzie Borden & Victorian Studies, "Prior to working in the theatre I was married to a violent man. I spent a great deal of time planning, quite literally, murderous schemes to rid me of him. I implemented none of them for none struck me as suitably foolproof. I crept into the night when it was forcibly brought home to me that in all likelihood I was cast as the murderee, not the murderer in my little drama. Had I been more inventive and less irresolute I might have been the beneficiary of a large insurance policy and the owner of quite a nice house in the country. I would not have killed for financial gain or the acquisition of real estate. I would not have killed to prevent injury to myself. I would have killed to prevent a violation that was far more frightening and threatening than any blow. Physical violence against my person was only its outward manifestation. I would have killed to maintain my sense of self. I believe it might have been the same with Lizzie. Although I did not realize at the time I began the play I think that’s what drew me to Miss Lizzie and the Borden murders." Here, we see that she maintained a personal connection to the material.
Pollock's research for the play was extensive, but she did not want to become a strict historian in her playwriting. In that same interview, she told The Hatchet, "As a rule my process is to read and research, and then to put that research away. I don’t allow myself to refer to it once I’m writing the play. I’m not interested in writing history. But I’m interested in contemporary questions reflected in events and/or people who have come before, are here now, and might come after. I’m looking for the interior of an historical or current event or person and I make a play from what I glean from that exploration. The external, which I think of as the facts, I may discard, alter, or invent."