Here’s an excerpt from an article I posted some time back.
“With a yell, the Rebels climb out of the ditch and charge across the field. The troops rise to a fever pitch as their captain waves his sword in the air and leads the charge. Half way across the field there is a barbed wire fence and, in several places, Rebel soldiers fall across the fence creating bridges for their companions. Hardly a man falters as they climb across the backs of their comrades. They bridge the fence and advance into the massed fire of the Union troops.
A great scene; moving and exciting, but is it real? Did you notice anything wrong with that scene? The problem with it is that barbed wire wasn’t patented until 1867 and was not used extensively until the invention of a machine that made it more economical to produce — that did not happen until 1874.”
Why did the script writer put in that scene? Why did the director film it that way? What happened to the technical advisor on that movie? (I hope he was fired.)
I’m asking you to try your hand at historical fiction this week. If you look at those two words, historical fiction, you can figure out what you need to do. In reverse order, fiction means it isn’t true; you’re making it up and you don’t have to have real people in it (although you might stick in some real figures here and there to lend it credence).
Historical means that your story has to be based in fact. Please don’t have an airplane in the Civil War. Research is critical to this type of writing. If you’re going to write a story that takes place aboard the Titanic, at least watch the movie — it was fairly accurate.
Also, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the term history. Everything I’ve written here is now part of history. Your historical fiction does not have to take place in Roman or Elizabethan times. It can be set in 1964 or even 1990; although I’d prefer that you take a stab at writing something from much further back.
Okay, I restrained myself last week and didn’t link to my own work, but I wrote a right fair historical fiction piece in my Origin of the Haunted Bible.
Your heroine dresses as an Indian brave and helps the colonists dump tea into Boston harbor in 1773.
Your protagonist is a journalist in 1776 and is supposed to cover the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Describe the atmosphere in the room as John Hancock steps up to affix his famous signature. Or you can get weird and have your journalist go to the wrong building and, thinking that he is watching history take place, he describes some teachers signing a new contract.
Your heroine accompanies Carrie Nation in her hatchet attacks on bars between 1901 and 1910. (Be warned — if she breaks a single bottle of Jack Daniels, I’ll be hunting her down.)
Be a humanitarian and have your hero as the overseer on a plantation who helps the slaves escape. Add a capitalistic bias to it and say that he helps the slaves of all the neighboring plantations, leaving his as the only one with sufficient workers to get in the harvest.
Your protagonist is a bicycle mechanic who helps Orville and Wilbur Wright build their first airplane. Maybe she has an idea for some new-fangled “jet” engine and tries to get them to try that out.
Remember what I said above about history is everything from now on back? Take something that is happening today and write about it from the viewpoint of a historian or journalist fifty years from now (or in the next century).
Watch out for:
Following are things that writers have included in stories that I’ve edited and you just don’t want to include.
- There were no wristwatches during the Civil War.
- If your story takes place in Europe, Africa, Asia, or South America, don’t have the people living in a wigwam/wikiup or tipi/tepee/teepee. These were Native North American lodges.
- Although electric streetlights were developed as early as 1875, it wasn’t until 1890 or so that they were common in the US.
- Don’t have your hero flying across the US in 1952 aboard a jet airliner.
- Except in Jurassic Park, humans never fought the T-Rex or any other type of dinosaur.
Watch out, you’re in for an interesting ride with each of the following submissions. Obviously I’d like to see everyone read each of the following.
Alien Report~*~Saturday Writing Essentials~*~ by Christine S.
Ellen Three (Saturday Writing Essential) By Mike Firesmith
SWE – Fiction, The Tank by Marilyn is looking for whatever there is. N.
An Exclusive Story for Saturday Writing Essential by Louise P.
Saturday Writing Essential by Carol Keefer
SatWE – Sci-Fi is fun! By SMSPirate s.
Pony Express (Saturday Writing Essential) by Len Maxwell
A Submission from a Previous Week’s Prompt:
Boy Meets Girl (Saturday Writing Essential) By Kimberly Blackadar
- Write a historical fiction story (prose or poetry).
- There is a limit of three submissions from each member per day. If you’re extremely prolific, spread out your work and post only three submissions per day.
- Post to Gather Writing Essential.
- Tag your submission with SatWE.
- Include (Saturday Writing Essential) as part of your title.
- I ask that you make your submission(s) by next Friday afternoon.