HIST 3908B: Creating History – Writing Historical Fiction
Winter 2021

Instructor: Dr. Jill St. Germain

Introduction

Are you drawn to History by the stories?

Have you ever read an historical novel and thought I’d like to do that?

HIST3908 Creating History is a writing course focused on a popular and often-undervalued form of historical writing – historical fiction. In this workshop-oriented course, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages, promise and pitfalls of writing history for a popular audience at a practical level with each student creating their own work in one of the two genres.

The major project is a 25-page piece of original historical fiction. Each class will involve a practical component directed to the development and completion of your piece of fiction or narrative. Although we will read some examples of historical fiction/narrative, the emphasis of this course will be the writing of individual projects.

In readings and discussion segments we will examine the elements of writing historical fiction and popular narrative, including the fundamentals of research, plotting, character development, and story structure, and course assignments will involve an opportunity to apply these aspects. We will work to identify those components which lead to “good” or “bad” fiction and narrative, compelling reads or “junk.”

Topping bestseller lists of both fiction and non-fiction, the writing of history for a popular audience has wide circulation. HIST3908 aims to help students apply skills developed and subject knowledge acquired in the study of History to this alternate form of historical writing.

Course Format

Creating History be offered online in COMBINED SYNCHRONOUS AND ASYNCHRONOUS format.

Class work will involve:

  • General class discussion on readings relating to the writing of historical fiction, including structural aspects, historical research methods, and issues in the writing of historical fiction.
  • Small group discussion and workshopping. Discussion will involve assessment of the functional aspects of historical fiction writing – plot / character development, establishment of setting, historical detail and accuracy – in selected examples of historical fiction. It will also involve assessment of weekly written exercises by all members of the group. This workshop component takes up the majority of “in class” time, especially as the course progresses and assignments become more substantial.
  • Some mechanism for reporting on the discussions in each group on a weekly basis.
  • One-on-one discussions with the instructor to discuss the weekly written assignment. These interactions may take place inside or outside of class time, depending on how things work out.

The details of delivery are still under consideration. Because of the discussion and workshop orientation of the course, students must be available at a specific time in order to work in small groups. That synchronous engagement may take place via the FORUM function on the cuLearn webpage or through an online platform for face-to-face interaction. We will adopt the format that works best for each group. Weekly written assignments will be submitted electronically and written feedback delivered in the same way. There will, however, be opportunities for one-on-one discussion with the instructor on your story progress.

Assessment

  • Participation in weekly discussion segments in a way that demonstrates knowledge and understanding of required readings.
  • Completion of short practical (weekly) written assignments related to aspects of the major project, including story concept, research agenda, character, plot, setting, chronology, outline, etc.
  • Submission of a 5-page excerpt for peer review and participation in a peer review session of the work of other group members PLUS assessment of excerpt by instructor.
  • Production of a 25-page original work of historical fiction, PLUS Commentary on Sources PLUS Bibliography
  • A written (3 page) review of the final project of another student
  • And, possibly, a dramatic reading of 3 pages of your story posted to course forum. This will depend on student interest.

There are no examinations in this course.