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Monday, October 3, 2011

There Are No New Stories

You've heard me gush over Anne Sowards before, she's the editor behind some of my favorites series. I shamelessly stalk her on Twitter. Don't worry, she knows. We actually communicate sometimes about random things like books and Korean television.

There's a story there. I blame her link to You're Beautiful, a Korean comedy-drama about a cross dressing nun. I was sick, it was brainless, and before you knew it I was picking up more about Korean language and culture than I ever intended.

Not that I object to studying new cultures, it's just that Korea was never one of those places that grabbed my attention. It's a place on the map. North Korea is politically interesting and the pictures that escape always have a dystopian feel, but South Korea was just... there.

Until I ran across a character archetype in the dramas that I liked. Until the character I liked didn't get the story I wanted. Until I decided that the idea boiling in the back of my mind might work in a historical setting.

Reading history is like winning the lottery for writers. I was mulling over a few possibly plot lines for my new character when I ran across the Mongolian invasion of Korea in 1231 while I was doing basic Korean language research. It was like walking out to find my van stuffed with $100 bills. The perfect conflict. The perfect set-up. Everything I wanted for my characters already neatly recorded.

There really are no new stories, just pieces of history we've forgotten. I'm not sure Korean history was even covered during my years of schooling. For me, it was a forgotten piece of human history that I was trying to recreate in fiction.

Does that mean I won't write the story? Don't be silly! I'm stealing ideas from history, not hard data. Research is just glorified plagiarism after all. I'm taking themes, cultural ideas, and a few names from the time period but setting the book in a fantasy world (without magic). A twist on the historical novel.

Still, every time I start building a new world I can't help think how writers try to reinvent the wheel when they start to create. We take something as simple as Boy Meets Girl and reinvent it a thousand times, each time finding a new variation and giving the idea a new meaning.

What about you? What have you stolen from history?


  1. The main setting of my current fantasy WIP is kind of Tang China meets Imperial Rome.

    That's before even getting to the fact that my paranormal romance is a historical (Regency England).

    I love history. The only reason I don't write more pure historical fiction is that it is, quite frankly, easier to get away with a historical-influence fantasy than historical given how picky some people can be.

  2. My birthday I guess. It is December 7th, 1946...The day the war started..My Dad's is the Day it ended...The church I went to until we closed the doors was started in the 1880's but they were dedicating their new church on the morning of December 7th 1941 at almost exactly the time Pearl Harbor was being bombed. I am trying to make a story about how the war effected the people...Also I just discovered that the first meeting of the United States Congress was December 7, 1892...Also am working on a story about a wagon train massacred by Mormons on Sept 11th... Finally I am working on a story set in Germany about a blaok soldier dealing with issues in the Army and his black room mate is the great grandson of relatives of both Sitting Bull and George Armstrong Custer...My background fot that story is I was the token white in a 12 man room at Ft. Stewart, Ga for almost a year. Might explain why I love soul music.

  3. Hsd to get the details..Delaware first state to ratify the Consitution 7 December, 1787...Mormon massacre at Mountain Meadows in 1857...It is an interesting story...Heard about it from the history channel....

  4. JA Beard - That's why I avoid pure historicals too. I like accuracy, and if I can't meet my standards I'll set it in a fantasy world.

    Ric - That's very interesting personal history. :o)

  5. Battlefield tactics.

    That's about it. Though one of the projects I'm debating using for NaNo would have quite a bit of historical research involved but it's not a historical novel.