Hi, SEers. You’re with Mae today, and I’m spinning the clock back to highlight education during my teen years.
High school history taught me numerous events, but it also taught me something about myself. When I was in school, I sorta/maybe/kinda liked history class, but there was something missing. It was only later, as an adult, I’d discover what that something was.
History taught me about events. The American Revolution, the Civil War, the U.S. expansion west, the Plains-Indian War, etc. I found all of that fascinating to a degree, but it lacked the human element. I’m not sure what made me pick up my first nonfiction title as an adult. The book was called The Patriots, written about the men behind the American Revolution. Men who became the founding fathers of the United States.
Suddenly I was reading about the people behind the incident, rather than the event itself. Once I started down that road, history unfolded in an entirely new way. I began devouring books on the men and women of historical times.
You could say it’s the difference between detail—dates, places, names—and emotion. As a writer, I could take that a step further and compare it to the difference between plot-driven (event) and character-driven (people) fiction.
Putting all of that into perspective, it doesn’t surprise me I prefer character-driven as both a reader and a writer.
My love of history has led me to numerous places within the U.S. to walk battlefields, visit old cemeteries and churches, hunt down historic markers. I still recall the goose bumps I had standing on the bridge between Lexington and Concord. I wasn’t thinking of the conflict that grew from “the shot heard round the world.” I was thinking of the men on either side of that bridge and the emotions running through their heads. Of the wives, children, parents, and family waiting for them at home.
The holiday for U.S. Independence has passed, but I thought this an appropriate post to share given how high school history and the American Revolution opened my eyes to something about myself. Something I’ve taken away as an author, understanding why I am drawn to character-driven stories.
Do you read non-fiction? Are you able to lose yourself in the lives of people who have come before, riveted by the details of the challenges they faced? Several years ago, I started notes for a novel about Elizabeth Bacon Custer. I doubt I will ever write that book, but I was fascinated enough by Libbie to consider giving it a try.
What about you? Have you ever considered writing a novelization of a historic figure’s life? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Ready, set, go!