As promised, I’m here to give you a belated writing prompt to compensate for missing the Friday Fun-Day prompt. Today’s prompt is a slight offshoot from last week’s, where I asked you to look into your family history for inspiration. This time, however, I want you to use world history for inspiration.
I’m sure that none of you are strangers to historic fiction, whether in books, movies, or TV shows (TURN, anyone?). You might have even come into contact with the genre without realizing it; after all, many books are a mix of historic fiction and other genres. Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is both science fiction and alternate history. Anne McCaffrey’s Black Horses for the King, one of my favorites, is a fantasy/historic fiction hybrid. Everywhere you look, we are repeating history–both on and off the page.
Why is historic fiction so prevalent, both on its own and bred with other genres? It’s pretty simple: the vein runs long and deep.
When you use the past as a springboard, you’ll almost never run out of material. Many events have been rewritten for fiction but there’s always another angle to take; it just takes a little creativity to find a new one and fill in the holes left by available records.
That’s what you’re going to do in this writing prompt: rewrite history.
This prompt is more for brainstorming than actual writing, at least at this stage. I want you to find a historic event from any time period that, for one reason or another, fascinates you. For me, that would be the reign of Catherine the Great of Russia, namely the beginning of her reign when she overthrew her husband, Peter III. (I mostly blame the Royal Diaries series for my obsession, but heck if I know why she in particular stuck in my head. Maybe it’s a past life thing.)
After you find the event you want to explore, spend some time discovering a not-so-common perspective on it. Did you choose an event in World War II? Consider following one of the many female spies or other heroines of the time. Did you go for the Salem Witch Trials? Try for one of the accusers or a witness to the hangings. For the example I gave above, I have often contemplated writing a book about this coup d’état through the eyes of one of Catherine’s servants or one of the generals with whom she conspired.
When you’ve decided on your angle, jot down your idea as some notes, an outline, maybe even a few pages for your new story. If you’re a poet, go ahead and scribble out a rough draft of your poem. My only suggestion is to not get too far before you can get to a computer or library for some research. Trust me, you don’t want to get attached to too many details before you know if they’re even plausible.
You’ll be surprised how easily the inspiration will come once you choose your perspective. Interpersonal interactions, emotions, holes in cause-and-effect, there’s only so much the records cover, so there will be plenty of mysteries for you to explore. Just remember to back your imagination with research. Many writers have been torn a new one for extreme inaccuracies in historic novels.
Do you have any ideas for writing prompts? Drop a line in the comments below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and your prompt may be featured on a Friday Fun-Day post.