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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Historical Inspiration in Fiction — Guest Post by M. C. Muhlenkamp

I don’t write historical fiction. I read historical fiction on occasion, and have come across both wonderful historical fiction books with the perfect mix of history and character development, as well as not so great historical fiction books with too much focus on historical details. But like I said, I myself don’t write historical fiction.

However, this doesn’t mean my books don’t have a heavy dose of historical background and research in them. Let me start at the beginning. I write science fiction and fantasy. That’s right. You might be wondering right about now, what role could history play in a science fiction or fantasy book? Well, believe it or not, historical inspiration isn’t only limited to historical fiction, it can play a great role in the development of other non-historical fiction stories.

Historical inspiration adds an extra level of depth to both characters and plots that would otherwise be nonexistent. It is so because historical events really happened and people in history really existed. Those time periods and the people that lived through them were real, their lives and personal stories were real, and their surroundings, struggles, and successes really took place. This source of knowledge is a gold mine for drafting compelling and relatable characters and circumstances in any story.

My latest science fiction stories, Markram Battles, don’t take place in ancient Rome. In fact, they take place in a future even more distant to ancient Rome than our current year. However, by drawing inspiration from the rise of the Roman Empire, its customs, beliefs, love for bloody entertainment, and prevalence of violence, I was able to create a more realistic environment for my characters to live in. Not only that, but by studying real structures of power, military, and empire expansion, I gained the tools to draft a more believable and compelling world.

Ancient Rome was the product of violence where military virtue played a key role in national pride and self-definition of an empire, and even though my characters aren’t Roman nor do they live in that time period, they too share a depth of similarities with this concept. This level of understanding between two seemingly unrelatable perceptions gives me the power to create something people can connect with on a deeper level.

Historical inspiration isn’t only found in historical fiction. Many other authors use it, adding that extra level of complexity to their books by drawing that inspiration into the shaping and development of plots and characters alike. 

Do you as a writer or reader enjoy historical inspiration in stories? Why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
About M.C. Muhlenkamp
M.C. (Melissa Carolina) Muhlenkamp was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She is an avid reader, food lover, and slightly obsessive writer with a knack for learning. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter @mcmuhlenkamp