January 28, 2020

Change the World with Your Writing-Using History to Change the Future Part 2

By p m terrell, Columnist for Southern Writers Magazine 

If you missed Part 1 of this blog series, it appeared on January 14, 2020 and you can access it via the archives on the right hand side of the blog page. 

Any genre can incorporate historical events; even science fiction and fantasy can begin with true history and alter them, so they fit into the fictional worlds of the characters. Here are some guidelines to take your work to the next level by incorporating history:

Has any moment in history captivated your attention? Some people are fascinated by Viking conquests, others by war. Some are interested in the breaking down of society and others by the rebuilding of it. Others look to natural events such as hurricanes, flooding, or volcanic eruptions. You should be passionate about it because you will be called to live against its backdrop for as long as you are writing your story.

Which historical events or eras are you most familiar? Using the event as part of your story may require reading nonfiction, performing Internet research, visiting actual sites, or meeting with historians, archaeologists, or other experts. While you can choose to learn about any subject, you’ll find the work much simpler if you already know a good bit about it.

What places and settings do these historical events take place? Consider the era, the place, the cultural, societal, political, and geographic elements.

What research is necessary? Expect at least one reader to be an expert on that location or historical event. While you needn’t add minute detail, the more historical facts you can intertwine with the story will lend authenticity to the entire plot. In an upcoming article, I’ll discuss ways to perform research without falling into the trap of inaccurate Internet information.

How will this backdrop improve your story? The difference between a mediocre book and a great one is the latter will withstand the test of time. New generations still fall in love with Romeo and Juliet, Yuri and Lara, Scarlett and Rhett, and Jamie and Claire. The backdrop should enhance your storyline, not get in the way of it.

How can these historical events educate the reader or alter their perceptions, awareness, or judgment of history? You are bringing your story, characters, setting, and history to life. What are the lessons to be learned from it? By uniquely placing a face to history, you can impact perceptions and change the reader’s mind for the better. Learning through reading is one of the best ways to invoke empathy.

How can this improve the world and make it a better place? The best historical backdrops are the ones that we see mirrored in our present. Sometimes it is reassuring to know that humanity survived the worst history had to offer, and we will emerge triumphant again. Perhaps your retelling of a tragic event can prevent history from repeating itself.


Part 2 -
Change the World with Your Writing-Using History to Change the Future" (Click to Tweet)

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 24 books ranging from historical to suspense. She details how she conducts historical research from the Internet to traveling the world in her most recent release, April in the Back of Beyond. Her most popular books, Songbirds are Free and River Passage, are creative nonfiction about her ancestors’ roles in migrating west in America while many of her suspense incorporate Ireland, her ancestral home, including Checkmate: Clans and Castles

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