author, creative writing, writing

Finding Inspiration in History

Morning day dreamers and star chasers!

I hope you are all well.

Today, I am adding once again to my Finding Inspiration series, and for a very good reason. I spent last weekend in Edinburgh, and had the most amazing time. I’d been once before and I fell in love with the city and this visit only made that love stronger.

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I have posted previously about finding inspiration in travel, and all the points in that post were completely valid for this trip. However, I’d like to share some different thoughts with this one, and that is; finding inspiration in History!

Most people, I think, have a fascination with at least one aspect of history, and I for one adore it. There’s so much inspiration to be had, and wondering the old cobbled streets of Edinburgh sure made me want to write and write and write. Take a look below at some of the ways you can find inspiration in history.

1. The power of the people
Throughout history, right up to today, you’ll find ordinary people doing extraordinary things. One of the things that really strikes me about history is some of the truly horrific conditions and situations people found themselves in. And throughout all these times, struggles for equality and rights were even more desperate than they are today. Sometimes, you look back at moments in history and find it so hard to imagine living that way, that you forget that the people involved were just like us; emotional, passionate, every day people who just wanted the best out of life.

These people are so amazing, that you can’t help but want to write stories about them. Visiting museums can be a great way to find out more about people and their lives at particular moments in history and you’re bound to leave with a mind full of characters.

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2. Folklore and fairy-tales
Folklore and fairy-tales are still held dear today, and are the basis for some of modern day,s most successful stories. Take Harry Potter for example. Yet, back in the day these stories rang true for a lot of people, who believed strongly in witchcraft and elves and fairies and spirits. I think most historic towns and cities will have folk stories that derive from their cultures and histories. And these stories can inspire you too, with all sorts of creatures and entities to play with and make your own.

In Edinburgh, a ghost walk taught me loads about old Scottish folklore and it was completely mind blowing. It’s no wonder that J.K. Rowling was so inspired, living in Edinburgh when she wrote the Harry Potter series!

3. Horror and gore
Today, there are a lot of horrors in the world. But one thing that can be said is that most humans abide by the laws of human rights and legal justice. There was a time, however, when human’s were brutal in their lifestyles and punishments. Setting a story at certain points of history can really allow you to explore the horror and gore that became day to day life for some people. Drowning witches, displaying severed heads on spikes and grave robbing were not uncommon, not in old Edinburgh anyway!

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4. Simpler times
Sometimes, to make a story less simple, you need simpler times. By that, I mean a lack of technology and transport. When you take away ease of communications and travel, characters are bound for adventures and troubles that can’t be easily solved. I think reliving those times is hugely inspirational for writers, because it opens up a world of potential stories that are so different to the times we live in now.

They say the reader lives a thousand lives, the writer too. Writing from a historical perspective allows us to live in a time that we’d never otherwise experience.

Do you write/have you written historical fiction? Or perhaps fantasy, where folklore and old traditions play a part?

I’d love to know, so please comment below!
Until then,
Keep writing

10 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in History”

  1. Great insights. I agree, history is a great source of influence for fantasy fiction…as long as it’s more than simply copying (this, of course, doesn’t include historical fiction). I’ve read a few works that simply tack on historical foundations (typically Roman politics) to a fantasy world. No only is such a thing cliche now, it ruins the reader’s chance to experience a truly new world, which to me is one of the main appeals of epic fantasy. I think you’re right about how “simpler times” can make plots more reasonable. But this, too, is a double-edge sword. Many writers senselessly transplant modern sensibilities (feminism, multiculturalism, class equality, etc) onto periods where those ideas either did not exist, or were not yet powerful enough to affect the cultural norms. To the contrary, the historical stories I find the most compelling are those that show how a character might navigate within those constraints (e.g., women finding power in Victorian England). History can be a great source of inspiration, but one that also takes a lot of work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to share your views in much depth! You make lots of very valid, insightful points. You are completely right about the copying. For me, I love when a fantasy takes a myth, legend, creature or magic and turns it into their own variation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely love this finding inspiration series, particularly because you’re promoting the idea of having to actively search for inspiration, rather than succumbing to “writer’s block”. Edinburgh looks beautiful, and the history of witches has so much scope for stories!

    Liked by 1 person

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