Hello! Ellen, here. So glad you stopped by to share my blog post with me. I hope you enjoy it!
I’ve not always been a Monkey author. In fact, I never intended to become a writer. I’m an Anthropologist/Archaeologist who became a Middle Grade History/English teacher, who discovered writing by way of wanting to tell a story. While teaching Ancient Rome, I became so fascinated with their history that I decided to write an upper- middle grade adventure novel, The General’s Son.
To me, story and history go together. Story is part of the word History, and within the time frame of history, there are bazillions of ideas to write about. Warfare, witchcraft, jealous love affairs, sad love affairs, weird customs and beliefs, notorious and bloody deeds, deceit, camaraderie . . . you name it and somewhere in history, you’ll find that story.
For example, when I read the book Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I immediately thought of the Greek hero, Theseus, and how kids from his city-state, Athens, were chosen to fight the Minotaur. I also thought of the Roman gladiatorial games, where contestants fought to the death. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus journeys to the Underworld in search of his mother’s spirit. During Victorian times, paranormal was the rage, with séances, vampire stories, and ghostly encounters. Today we have the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer. The adventure and fantasy stories we enjoy, come to us in part because of heroic figures like King Arthur, and epic poems like Beowulf and The Nibelungenlied.
Unfortunately for history and story, Historical Fiction is not the most popular genre among kids. But when a history teacher introduces their students to great literature that can be used to teach history through story, that changes. For example, The American Revolution is more real if My Brother Sam is Dead, by Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is read. And The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, is perfect for Ancient Egypt. Good stories make good history and the kids love it.
In her guest blog, (here) Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Chains, Forge, and Fever 1793, all Historical Fiction novels, says,
“For historical fiction to connect with readers, it must be thrilling fiction of the highest quality. If the story is a great story, the history will be consumed and remembered with no allergic reactions at all.”
*If the story is a great story* . . . that’s it right there.
Writing Historical Fiction can be time consuming. Facts used must be true to history, and presenting them in a story can be tricky. A story cluttered with too many historical facts can be devastating . . . and boring. The novel needs to breathe. Words and sentences must flow and not be tangled in dense language. Without an exciting plot and a likeable protagonist that overcomes all odds, your historical novel will gasp and sputter and die.
Historical Fiction only works when the author seizes the past and brings it alive for the reader. Stories help us make sense of the world. A great story can also help a child make sense of the past.
So the next time you want to tell a great story, consider breathing life back into my friend, History. Check out some mythology, thumb through any History book, or wander the halls of a museum or the aisles of a book store. Stop by your local historical society and read some old newspapers or letters. Surf the internet. Question an aged relative about the past.
I promise you won’t be disappointed! Now, I would like to hear from you . . .
Do you have a favorite Historical Fiction novel? Or, while reading a novel in another genre, did any “History” come to mind?