A WRITING BLOG About Playing Around with a Story Line in Different Literary Genres and Categories
Writing Leap #32
WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION
Historical Fiction is a blend of historical facts and your imagination. It takes place in a definite period of time and place in history. Your characters are involved in a conflict or situation that is real for that time period.
The serious challenge for us writers is to eschew historical cliché. We have to do our research and then plunge ourselves back there. You don’t have to spell out the historical facts but they should be hovering underneath your fiction.
So writers. Do you have a time or moment or place in history that feels curiously familiar? Or that you are curious about? Take yourself back there and write.
Background on my fiction piece: The First Thanksgiving
Juicy, fragrant turkey with the stuffing you’ve loved since a child. Tart cranberry sauce and candied sweet potatoes. Yuuum. Creamy pumpkin pie with the flavors of autumn. Cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of ginger and maybe allspice. Thanksgiving.
But not anything like the food served at the harvest gathering in the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1621. Based on two slim accounts, 32 colonists and 90 Wampanaug feasted together on duck, geese, venison, maybe pumpkin and squash. Nobody knows if the Wampanaug were even invited or just showed up. With five deer. But they were welcomed. Chief Massasoit had signed a peace treaty with the Pilgrims.
Over the last 392 years since that gathering in Plymouth the romance of Thanksgiving has blossomed in our country’s fanciful mind. It is a uniquely American way of saying grace. Here’s my imagining of the first gathering.
The First Thanksgiving
He would eat standing up. To sit next to an ash-skinned man at a crowded table, maybe have to touch arms, would kill him.
He was fourteen.
He was a ferocious warrior.
And he would stand.
As far away from those moon-colored faces showing all their teeth as he could.
Which wasn’t far. He felt his father’s eyes flashing fire at him,
But even if his father suspected his thoughts he would never see them on his son’s face. The muscles around the young warrior’s eyes and mouth were as still as stone.
His weapon hung loosely at his side begging him to grab it.
Lots of gunfire this morning from this white settlement. Surely an attempt for a full out attack on his whole tribe. His blood raged. He would devour them. Chop them up like whale meat. He was well aware of how easy that would be for him.
She brought him a platter of paleface overcooked venison and stupid-looking cranberries. She was his age, he thought, but mush. Not hard and magnificent like his mother and his sisters.
“Seconds?” she asked. Washed out blue eyes. Worst of all she had yellow straw for hair. A freak.
He just stared.
He pinched her breast through her starched apron. Hard.
Her mouth flew open and her eyes rolled back and she collapsed to the ground. In a dead faint.
He didn’t have to look at his father to see the gesture of fury directed at him. It said, “Leave. NOW.”
Happy Writing Everyone and Happy Thanksgiving!
LINKING THE ARTS
An Evocative Engraving
The Pilgrims Receiving Massasoit
Charles Henry Granger, 19th century
Maybe my fuming young warrior is in this crowd?
A Word I Like: Grace. In the sense of generosity of spirit. Like the young warrior’s father who surely must have harbored some fury against the pilgrims who stole their corn and worse, yet rose above it.
I Like this Book.
Thanksgiving by Sam Sifton, National Editor and former restaurant critic for The New York Times. He is very funny. His book is full of tips and comments both culinary and amusing.