Letting History Inspire you

Ever longed to write down that story your mother used to tell, of how she and her
brothers were evacuated to a Somerset farm during the Blitz and were terrified of all the
animals? Secretly wishing you’d paid more attention to your gran when she used to drone on about what a tough life she had as a Land Girl? And do you sometimes wonder what happened to those diaries you kept when you were a teenager?

History can be an excellent source of ideas for fiction, whether it’s your own history
or somebody else’s, modern, ancient or somewhere in between. In her recently published novel, Echoes of Friendship, Wendy Worley takes the real story of her grandfather’s friendship with another soldier at the end of the First World War, and develops it into a poignant and surprising tale – surprising because the other soldier was Hans, a German, fighting for the enemy.

Wendy admits the novel is her interpretation of her grandfather’s experiences, based
on a few artefacts that have always intrigued her, including letters and a little book from
Hans, and a collection of photographs. She never knew her grandfather, but the urge to tell his story has driven her, over a number of years, to craft a novel around those letters – evidence of a touching rapport between soldiers on opposite sides in the Great War. Wendy deftly interweaves two stories in her novel: that of Mac and Hans and, in the modern day, that of Andy and Sophe, teenagers who have their own battles to wage at school.

Thinking of using your own family history to inspire a novel or short story? Don’t be
afraid to alter the facts to fit the rhythm of fiction: in real life, events unfold slowly and
untidily; in fiction, they need to have pace and pattern, following a dramatic arc that real life rarely follows. Take care with the names of people and places so no one can accuse you of libel! And think of ways to enrich your character with strengths – or weaknesses – lacked by the person on whom they’re based, but which add vital substance to your fiction.

Real historical events can be a jumping-off point for your own imagination, but do get
your facts right where it matters: glaring inaccuracies will undermine the integrity of your tale. Let history inspire you and you won’t go far wrong!

Wendy Worley’s “Echoes of Friendship” is published by SilverWood Books and is
the third novel to bear Frome Writers’ Collective’s Silver Crow logo and strapline –
individually inspired, collectively published.

Nikki Copleston

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