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Short Stories with a Historical Backdrop

Guest Author - Kathryn Jones Merry

If you have a passion for history, consider writing a short story set within an historical background. Itís a lot of fun exploring the small details and world changing events in the annals of time that already fascinate you. There is always more to learn about how the world worked in times long past. Think of it as an archeological exploration using words as your main tool instead of a shovel.

Realize when writing short stories set in ancient Rome, the Ming Dynasty, or the California Gold Rush, require extra research. Research is your friend and guide as you place your characters within historical scenarios that actually occurred. Itís important to keep the timeline as accurate as possible. If details are sloppy in the story, you could lose readers who look for accuracy even in fiction.

To bring the full flavor of the past into your story, there are a number of details that can transport your readers into history. For example, the political climate of the time can provide impetus. Politics can help reflect the state of the society and how your characters are affected by rules of the times.

Similarly, social attitudes and status can provide motivation that moves your characters into and out of the situations creating your story. How do they spend an average day? Does the story take them out of their comfort zone? Regardless if aristocracy, merchant, servant, or slave, everyone has expectations of their futures. Consider what happens if the unexpected occurs, and the life they have always known suddenly changes drastically. Case in point, did Mrs. OíLearyís cow really kick a lantern and start the Great Chicago Fire? With different conspiracy theories floating around the cow version, it leaves room for doubt.

Where is your story taking place? Are you sending your characters across snow covered mountains, or a parched desert? Are they prepared for survival if they are from a more pastoral homeland? Who or what lives in the region? Or set the story on the high seas Ė youíll need a bit of knowledge on sailing and the fears people held as truth at different points in time Ė like sailing off the edge of the earth.

History has already been written. Now you can weave a story into the backdrop creating the picture in time you want to present to the reader. The threads are the emotions of the characters as they move within the lines of history. When viewing a tapestry hanging, do you see the scene; or perhaps, you can hear the 1,000 words that inspired it?
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Content copyright © 2014 by Kathryn Jones Merry. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kathryn Jones Merry. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Rose English for details.

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