My Favourite Genre

Ben_tnsMy favourite genre (to read and write) is historical fiction. My fascination with this genre was more than likely cultivated by the many missionary biographies I read as a child. I loved “visiting” different cultures and learning spiritual lessons along with the main characters. Historical fiction provides the same opportunities, but the main character may or may not be a person of faith. The main difference between these two genres is that biographies are non-fiction and historical fiction is, of course, fiction. Both biographies and historical fiction usually focus on a time period at least twenty-five years before the current time.

Dictionary.com defines historical fiction as:

“the genre of literature, film, etc., comprising narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages.”
Wikipedia adds:
“Historical fiction presents a story that takes place during a notable period in history, and often during a significant event in that period. Setting usually takes priority in a work of historical fiction, and the author should be making some sort of statement or observation about the period where and/or when the work is taking place. Historical fiction often presents events from the point of view of fictional characters of that time period. Events portrayed in historical fiction must adhere to the laws of nature.”
Some people may think that because a story is fiction, not much research is required. This is absolutely false, at least if you want a realistic story. In order to write powerful historical fiction, you not only need an interesting plot and a believable main character, but you also need to know about the food, clothing, houses, careers/work, and expectations of the specific era you’re writing about. There’s nothing worse for a reader than being “yanked” out of the story by details that are inaccurate. For example, if your story takes place in the early 1900s, no seat belts would be used since seat belts were not installed in vehicles until the late 1950’s.
When we write historical fiction, we are able to use actual historical events as the backdrop for our story and create our own scenes and “extras” to make the story come alive. Some of the people in our story may be actual historical figures (as long as we represent them accurately), but other characters will be fictional. For example, the backdrop of my work in progress, Olga’s Discovery, is the invention and controversial introduction of birth control.
Some of my favourite authors and books in this genre are:
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
  • The Zion Chronicles (series) by Brock and Bodie Thoene
  • Snapshots in History (series) by Murray Pura
  • Heirs of Acadia (series) by Isabella and T. Davis Bunn
  • In the Shadow of the Mountain (series) by Clint Kelly
What’s your favourite genre, and why? I look forward to hearing from you.
NOTE: This is the 5th post in a blog hop I’m hosting for writers. If you’d like to participate or want to read about other authors’ favourite genres, click on the link below.
Blog Hop for Writers

Guest Post – A Touched Life

Today I’m happy to welcome Murray Pura to my blog. Murray was our keynote speaker at the 2013 InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Fall Conference. I appreciate his emphasis on saying “yes” when God asks you to do something. You can find out more about Murray and his writing at http://www.murraypura.com/.

Murray Pura

Murray says: “I started writing stories when I was eight or nine, hand printing them on 5 x 3 index cards, drawing the covers, and giving them to my mom to read. One thing led to another and early in the 21st century I was invited to write my first inspirational non-fiction for the US market. My passion from that early time forward, is still to create such well crafted writing that it takes you inside of itself, somewhere you can deeply experience and truly enjoy. I hope you’ll give one of my books a try and if you have read one or two and enjoyed them drop me a line and let me know about it.”

A Touched Life

When I do research for historical fiction one of the first things that strikes me is how much everyone has suffered down through the ages. That we no sooner cure the world’s ills – like leprosy or TB or polio or the Black Death – only to have other ills take their place – lung cancer, obesity, dementia – or see the old ills return with a vengeance. Wars have not lessened, or rape, or violent crimes, or the death of children by the dozens, the hundreds, and the millions. Always leaving in their wake those who experience the loss and who grieve. And many who find the strength to get up and keep going and not only keep going but do great things, important things, powerful things, things that bless.

Not everyone can get up again and do that. For some the suffering is so great they simply shut down. They may go through the motions for the next 10 or 20 or 30 years but they’re not really there anymore. They expect nothing, hope for nothing, believe in nothing. Life is over.

For others, most I would guess, the energy returns, the focus returns, they carry on with their lives, even if they still bleed a little inside every day for the rest of their lives. They do good things for their family and friends, even for strangers, do good work at the office or store or company, and are good and kind to their neighbors.

Then there is the touched life, the truly touched life. I find them in my research now and then. I see them in the world around me now and then. People whose hearts and souls have been absolutely flattened, who have lost pretty much all there is to lose without losing their own lives, people you’d expect to lie down and never get up again or to wander off and never be seen again. Yet somehow a miracle happens – not only do they recover, not only do they get back to blessing family and friends and neighbors, they go farther than they ever have before because of what they’ve suffered, not in spite of it. They turn their suffering into heroic acts, they turn it into enormous courage, they create great films, great books, great music, great legislation, great inventions. They will tell you their suffering showed them the way, opened the door, motivated them, inspired them, challenged them, fired them up to change a broken world.

It is always moving and astounding when I uncover these lives. Sometimes their stories are well-known, other times no one has ever heard of them before. It doesn’t matter because once a decent writer gets their hands on the material they can give the story to the world and by so doing breathe new life into millions.

I call it a touched life. A miraculous life. Touched by God and angels even if some of them might not believe in God and angels. To overcome suffering and loss and devastation is one thing. To become much more than you ever were before, to be made anew and made better by that suffering and loss and devastation is something else again. I wish for more such lives for the world around us. The suffering will always be there. I pray the touched lives may always be there as well.