How to Write a Historical Narrative

How to Write a Historical Narrative

Telling the story of a historical time or event through a narrative allows you to convey information in a format which is more appealing to those who struggle with textbook-style learning. A historical narrative can be written through the eyes of a fictional character or even as the story of a real person from history who experienced the event. The key to a successful historical narrative is providing an engaging story without distorting facts.

1 Choose Narrator

Select the main character of your narrative, through whom the reader will experience the historical event. For example, if writing a narrative about the Civil War you may wish to write through the eyes of a Union soldier. Wars, in particular, are recounted very differently depending on whether your side won or lost. Consider picking an unusual or seldom-used perspective to add interest to your narrative.

2 Conduct Research

Research the pertinent historical information for your narrative, including important events and living conditions that may be represented in your story, and that will influence the way your character thinks and acts. Determine where your character would fit in the rungs of society. Consider how your character's beliefs, values and life experiences would shape his personal views on the historical event you are covering.

3 Define Time Period

Narrow the scope of your story to the exact period or events you wish to cover. Review the major events of the time and consider how your character would react to these developments. For example, you could write a series of fake journal entries for the soldier covering his life throughout the entire war, or you could elect to write a third-person story about the soldier going through a famous Civil War battle.

4 Outline the Plot

First, write an outline for your narrative story, with a beginning, middle and end, showing the key plot points. Try your best to stick to your research, using the outline as a guide. Remember you are telling an interesting story, so have fun and let your imagination flow as you write your first draft. Include details when describing clothing, mannerisms, weather or other specifics that add realism.

5 Review First Draft

Reread your story and check the historical details against your research to be sure that you have not taken any creative licenses which make your story historically inaccurate. Otherwise, you can be creative and make up personal tidbits, such as a subplot about your character's girlfriend breaking up with him when he went off to war because she didn't want him to go.

6 Develop Final Draft

Revise your story to fix any historical inaccuracies you noted, as well as areas where you feel your narrative is weak. Repeat the process, rereading and revising until you are satisfied with your narrative. Proofread carefully for grammar or spelling errors before submitting.