HIST 3908A: Creating History: Writing Historical Fiction
Instructor: Dr. Jill St. Germain
Are you drawn to History by the stories?
Have you ever read an historical novel and thought I’d like to do that?
Are you a writer looking for an opportunity to exercise and improve your skills?
Writing Historical Fiction is your chance to write a short piece of historical fiction. The subject matter is entirely up to you and can range – as stories for this course have in the past – from ancient Greece, Rome, or China through the Renaissance and the Victorian era into the world wars, civil war in Eritrea, behind the Iron Curtain, and beyond. So long as your story takes place sometime before 1970, the choice is yours.
The focus of the course is the production, by each student in the class, of a 25-page original work of historical fiction. Every week we’ll work on a practical component directed to the development and completion of your project. The grade for the course will be divided in four ways:
- your work on the incremental small assignments that support the major work;
- your participation in class discussion and small-group peer support sessions;
- your completed story
- your (short) assessment of another student’s story
If you’ve never tried your hand at fiction before, this is the place to start. We’ll review the fundamentals of story writing and the short assignments will help to build your confidence toward the goal of a completed story. If you’re already a practiced hand, this is an opportunity to tackle the genre of historical fiction in a short story. You’ll produce a finished piece.
Writing historical fiction necessarily involves a capacity for research and an understanding of historical context. In this course, we’ll consider resources and techniques for historical research. We’ll also spend time learning how to recognize and develop historical context as an aspect of your individual projects.
Writing itself is the third component of HIST3908. We’ll spend some time honing skills and techniques of writing to improve the quality of the story and to ensure that you produce a polished piece.
The weekly workshop sessions will guide you through the process gradually. While our goal here is a work of historical fiction, the process of developing, organizing, and executing this project is something you can take with you into assignments for other classes and beyond that into the professional world. The elements of historical research and historical context are important in the study of History, but you’ll find that the skills you develop in grappling with them here have wide application. And whether you go on to write fiction or non-fiction, for entertainment or business purposes, a capacity to communicate effectively through good writing skills will always be an asset.
Creating History will be offered in a face-to-face setting in Winter 2023.
The class consists of one 3-hour session each week.
Class work will involve:
- Brief lecture plus discussion of the fundamentals of story-writing, historical research, historical context, and writing techniques.
- General class discussion of short readings addressing issues in the writing of historical fiction and including fictional excerpts as examples.
- Small group workshopping of short written assignments related to your major project.
While part of each class will be devoted to group discussion, your grade will depend entirely on your own contributions.
- Attendance and participation in weekly class discussions, demonstrating familiarity with and understanding of assigned readings.
- Completion of a number of short practical written assignments relating to the development of your individual project.
- A 3-page excerpt of your story for peer review and participation in a peer review session
- Production of the major project: a 25-page work of original historical fiction
- A written assessment of the completed story of another student.
There are no examinations in this course.