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Blog Using History In Your Stories

Using History In Your Stories

By Jake R. Wilson | Guest Blog

Using History In Your Stories

Archaeologist and author Jake R. Wilson talks to us about his new book, Sar Wylda and the Legendary Goldbreaker, and gives his top tips on how you can use historical elements in your own stories.

In Sar Wylda and the Legendary Goldbreaker, one sport dominates all entertainment: DINOBEAST RACING. To compete is to court certain death but for those brave few nothing is more thrilling than seeing the chequered flag drop at Goldbreaker Superspeedway.

Sar Wylda lives in a prehistoric world and the land of Pangeum is fraught with danger at every turn. Savage sabrecats lurk on the edges of civilisation ready to attack while racing dinobeasts thunder across the desert flats. After Sar loses her eyesight she has had to pursue a different life than racing. Will she have the courage to follow in the footsteps of the greatest dinobeast racers of all time?

I wrote Sar Wylda and the Legendary Goldbreaker as a fantasy, but I still wanted realism in the story. I think we connect more with characters who share the same aspirations as us. A big part of that connection for me is the material culture that we once used. A lot of the tools the characters use day-to-day are based on real artefacts that I have discovered. Arrowheads, flint daggers and even quern stones for grinding wheat into flour feature. These are just a few of the interesting things that ancient humans used to survive. I work as an archaeologist and it’s my job to dig up the past, so I get to examine these objects almost every day. I find myself so inspired by real-life artefacts. Something I dig up always makes it into what I am writing, especially if it reveals something about the people who left it behind.

I LOVE to use historical figures or facts or characters in my stories. If you’re thinking about doing the same or want to add some real-life artefacts in your writing here are some tips and tricks that I use:

What is the setting for your story? Is it similar to a place now or in the past? If you have deserts with rolling sand dunes and sparkling oasis maybe looking at Ancient Egypt will give you inspiration. How about dense rainforests with creeping vines and poisonous lizards? You could use the ancient Maya or Aztecs for ideas.

Do your characters have any artefacts? Maybe an ancient sword or ship’s compass? Looking at real life examples like the razor-sharp katana of the Japanese samurai or the Roman gladius can help you visualise exactly what you want to write. I will often look online at museums to see what they have in their galleries to inspire me. The British Museum is filled with a number of weird and unusual items that can help bring your world to life. Crystal skulls? Cat mummies? Very strange but perfect for story writing.

The final piece of advice I can give is to think about adding real people from history into your story.  Perhaps Mary Anning, the famous fossil hunter and scientist, has passed on her journal to your character. Maybe Leonardo da Vinci’s secret manuscripts have gone missing and need to be found. Imagine what these people would be like, how they might talk and think. The world was very different in the past, so you have to put yourself in their shoes if you want to be authentic. 

What I like to do when I’m writing is use one real piece of history and then add something magical to it! So, in Sar Wylda and the legendary Goldbreaker there are dinobeasts which are all based on actual fossil discoveries but when they eat a magical fruit called the accelberry they become incredibly fast! Mixing two things together makes for some wonderful combinations.

There are no rules when thinking up ideas so be as creative as you want. Take inspiration from the thousands of years of human history and create your own story using the past as a guide.

Happy writing!

Jake R. Wilson 

Sar Wylda and the Legendary Goldbreaker is out now.

You can find out more about Jake's books here, or follow him on X or Instagram

If you're feeling inspired to write your own historical story, why not try a mini saga and enter it into our Ancient Adventures competition! You can find all the details here. 

Published: Tue 11th Jun 2024

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