Writing Historical Fiction
Despite the many media claims of unbiased reporting, to truly achieve this is impossible. Every thought we have ever had carries the chemicals of emotion. Every experience, picture, sound, texture—anything that enters us through our five senses—is stored in our brain and gives a flavor, a bias, to our thoughts, words, and actions. Although we may try to present all sides equally, our preconceptions will make themselves known, however subtly they do so. Everything we think, say, or do comes through our personal bias.
I write historical fiction. In order to do so I read history, study culture, theology, archaeology, etc., and I always find a plethora of versions and viewpoints. As I learn and study, everything flows in and out through my primary filter—”Jesus loves me, this I know”—and my belief that nobody deserves his love and yet anyone can claim it. David Crowder’s song, “Oh, How He Loves Us,” expresses this very well (click at right to listen).
One of my elementary teachers stocked up on We Were There books (published in the 1950s and 1960s by Grosset & Dunlap) as supplements to our history lessons. My favorite, We Were There With Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, told the story of a few hundred back-country boys and their famous battle with the British at Fort Ticonderoga. I wondered then—out loud and persuasively—and still am perplexed as to why all history books aren’t written in story format.
Stories make history real and relevant for us. If we can relate to historical characters, experience life through their eyes, we develop a deeper understanding of the times they lived in—and the lessons they learned experientially are passed on to us through osmosis.