WatchNon-threaded

Forums » Writing Workshop » Read Message

Toss around ideas and brainstorm your story.

Historical Fiction

one month ago
I love reading it a whole lot, but writing it is something I just have never been able to do. I always find the research involved an impossible struggle...not the events themselves, but the minutia that's never going to be mentioned when reading the accounts. There's atmosphere, dialogue, endless details of the time period and culture, and the thought processes and interactions of the people produced by those that you need to be able to comfortably wield to bring a story together. I know there's a certain amount of fudging you can do (and pretty much have to do) but you can undermine readers' confidence in your abilities as a storyteller and take them right out of the game by being a little too careless and getting some important detail wrong. Particularly when it's something you're hanging plot points or character motivations on. Just wanted to make this a general chat thread for people's thoughts or experiences working with historical settings, or recommendations of useful resources or other IF that does it well. Actual events you think it would be cool to see a game about might be interesting too. Even if you're not specifically writing historical fiction, actual history is full of stuff of can be incorporated into original plots in more fantastical genres. I don't mean just the big events, but tons of fascinating little personal stories and the motivations that drove real people to do some crazy shit. There will be an obligatory tagging of @Will11 to this thread, of course.

Historical Fiction

one month ago
Just thinking about some of the different approaches possible. 1) Faithful adaptation of historic events. This would be the most difficult, in an IF format anyway. Using real people as characters it'd be the most educational for sure, but I'd question how choices would even work unless you do something cheap like end the game to protect the timeline every time the player goes off the rails. Will has had a lot of success writing about events like the Donner Party and the Mutiny on the Bounty that involved following multiple casts of characters however, so that may be the way to go. 2) Fictional story with a backdrop of historic events Your own plots and characters inserted into historic events. More freedom of choices obviously but you've got to know the setting inside and out to account for all the parts of it the player can explore and the possibilities changes might lead to. 3) Alt History The genre of 'What If The Nazis Won'. This is considered in a way to be more of a kind of sci fi, but you just establish up front that this is an alternate reality where X happened differently and extrapolate future events from there. (Where hopefully X is more interesting than just Nazis again.) Plenty of freedom, but you still need to know a lot about real world history and the major people involved to speculate and play with it that way. Here's a freebie idea: What if Lincoln had joined the Donner Party? Because apparently in real life he very nearly did, only his wife's pregnancy stopped him. 4) "Inspired by" A nice lazy route with endless possibility. It can be a simple fusion of #1 and #2 where you're having your characters interact with or even replace real people and influence events however you like for the plot, or you can go much faster and looser with it and adapt real life things for sci fi or fantasy settings. You're not making any claims about educational value or facts, you're just acknowledging that you lifted some of your ideas from real events. (Still potentially educational as it might inspire people to look up the real story.) I see a lot of value in #4 even if it's not strictly historical. Authors so often struggle with compelling consequences and motivations, when there's reams of ideas out there available to anyone of truth that's stranger than fiction. And finally, my random suggestions for events that might make for cool adaptations. The loss of the real ship that inspired the story of Moby Dick. Although for some reason Melville was too much of a pussy to include all the cannibalism. British kids with criminally inept teacher are taken into the Black Forest to freeze to death. (Except for the ones rescued by Nazis.) The Shackleton Expedition. All the early Antarctic expeditions were pretty metal, but this one is my favorite and a remarkably inspirational feel good story. These guys had their ship frozen in the ice for ten months and then eventually made an epic journey back home without it. Sorry, no cannabalism in this one. The Legion Valley Massacre. Annoyingly I can't find much online that goes into detail about this. Not even a wiki article, wtf? But I had a Texas History professor go into this one at length, and those links are excerpts from a book I have, The Captured by Scott Zesch. (Which I'd recommend to anyone into this period of history, the author did a ton of research into captives of the Comanches while looking into the life of one his own ancestors, and the writing is just really approachable and full of interesting detail.) The story of the two kids taken captive is one thing, the actual hero of this one though is Matilda Friend who was the only woman there who fought back. She was sliced up, shot with arrows three times, partially scalped. She successfully played dead and managed to crawl miles to a cousin's house...only to be abandoned by him and his family when they panicked. Then she gave birth two weeks later. (Everybody else in that group got gang raped and mutilated and murdered because they just didn't have her level of chadness, F.)

Historical Fiction

one month ago

I feel like the style of historical fiction is extremely important in determining how you tell the story AND make it feel believable and immersive. I think that if you're writing IF, a totally faithful recounting of the events is completely out of the question, unless you do something like using perspective instead of real choices. A lot of historical events can be viewed differently depending on your personal opinions, so if you wrote a storygame that was an examination of events from multiple perspectives, you could keep it accurate while maintaining an illusion of choice. You could write a story on a number of controversial topics like this. Perhaps you write about the Vietnam War, but one line is the perspective of an American soldier and the other is a Vietcong soldier's point of view. The same event could be described in multiple ways, and this would be a pretty thought-provoking story. At the same time, this still isn't a real CYOA.

The most logical approach to writing historical fiction is probably the "original characters within the context of broader historical events". You can get as crazy as Inglorious Basterds or this one Russian movie that focuses on a mystical tank hunt. Both of these movies are ridiculous, but they still feel fairly real. You could also do something like Jojo Rabbit, just more serious. One child in Nazi Germany can have any number of reactions to what's going on around them, and could be a really neat setting for a storygame! Overall, there's a ton of options if you follow this format, and I think this is the most broadly used format of writing historical fiction for this reason. You are also able to fudge more without going into unreasonable territory.

The "what if?" approach can also lead to some interesting stories, although I think the best way to go about this one would be with more subtle changes that can have a butterfly effect, or you can just focus on a real story, but with fictional options added in. You mention the story of Matilda Friend, which could easily become a CYOA where you play as her and are trying desperately to survive. Maybe you save others as well, or maybe you just die. I could write about my great grandma, whose first husband died of TB, whose son disappeared mysteriously, whose second husband was fatally wounded by a German bomb, whose sister was killed by a land mine. I could add branching to every part of her life and result with the potential for a story that is a mix-and-match of these various real events with fictional events.

Folk tales also provide excellent material, because they are unverifiable and give you a lot of creative freedom, so that's another route one could go down.

There are a ton of ideas for historical fiction that I've come up with just in the ten minutes or so that I've been writing this, and it would be awesome to see more of it on the site, but I don't think I'll attempt it for now.

Historical Fiction

one month ago

Good thread, not sure I can add much to it though.

Speaking of incorporating history into fiction, I thought the prelude mentioned in this video (around 8 minutes) was a cool concept, and tried having a similarly styled opening for a sci-fi story (not that it really worked out).

Other than that specific example, generally being inspired is a good way to get ideas, even if some of the coolness factor may be lost translating something that happened into a fake version. But just learning stuff is a good way to broaden one's views and be capable of having more interesting ideas (I'd say).

Regarding useful resources, watching videos is easier than reading (for some people) and not doing the research yourself is more convenient, so OverlySarcasticProductions is pretty neat (yes, my previous link was to a video of theirs). There's lots of history related stuff on their channel. Could always look into the events they mention yourself as well, but I imagine they're not just making shit up.

Oh, they also have some writing related videos, which (given the site) is relevant! They've also got a good deal of mythology videos.

Historical Fiction

one month ago

Historical Fiction

one month ago

I think that the "research" for a good historical fiction story is something that had to have been done before the thought of writing the story even crosses your mind. Absorbing the amount of "minutia," as you say, that you needed to have taken in in order to write a good historical fiction story consumes a great deal of time. When I wrote Warlords, I had already read a lifetime's worth of medieval Chinese books, military treatises, war video games, and Wikipedia entries and history textbooks on the setting and subject. Additionally, I've always liked historical fiction stories- the first book that I bought with my own money was The Legend of Tarik.

As I get older, the more I see that a lot of "history" is fiction anyway. I'm no great writer, but my advice would be to focus more on the fiction, and less on the historical. People read historical fiction for the drama involving familiar characters and settings, not a history lesson, imo. As long as the setting feels realistic enough, it should be an adequate backdrop for an engrossing narrative. History should inspire, rather than constrain.

Historical Fiction

one month ago
Nice, history thread lured out a a site member from the ancient past.

Historical Fiction

one month ago
I don't know about other peoples' approaches but I research the crap out of something and then go for a documentary style write-up to put the reader in the picture. The downside of this is that the reader's character doesn't really influence events, he just chooses which ones he will observe. Most historical events don't lend themselves to the cyoa structure either: it has to be events where multiple people or groups of people were doing interesting things at the same time. The Donner Party and Mutiny on the Bounty fit this criteria well but very few do. Some of the ones that do are:

1: Historical journeys like Burke and Wills or the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

2: Major disasters like 9/11 or the Titanic (but only some, the Hindenburg for example wouldn't work as a cyoa).

3: Surprisingly historical investigations into things like murders, particularly well documented ones like Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer, fit into this as the character can search for clues and information.

I think history is interesting enough without resorting to fiction and fantasy but others have different opinions so experiencing straight factual history can get a bit dry. Some of the more creative stuff is really good, Ninjapika's Blackbeard story or the 1066 story featured in Edutainment springs to mind. Ultimately it all comes down to preference, I think putting a completely fictional story in a historical setting can be really good and alternative history can be fun but I do think a story in a historical setting that doesn't accurately give a feeling to the reader of being in a historical setting is wasted, they might as well just set it in the present.

Edutainment is my favorite genre and browsing through the wikipedia list of unusual articles I see tons of stuff there that would make great edutainment stories in the hands of talented writers. It'll be interesting to see what people come up with in the future :)