Sometimes when I write, I get lost in the story my characters are telling, much like when I read a good book. Other times, it’s like forcing every word through clenched teeth. Recent events have my head spinning. I’m sure I’m not the only writer whose mind is reeling with the events happening around the world in general and in the United States in particular.
As I write this, First Reader is watching a docudrama about the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Some of the parallels to current affairs send shivers down my spine. History does indeed repeat itself, as any student of the past can tell you. The setting might be different, but the results are all too often similar.
As writers, we’ve have heard that all stories have been written again and again and again, ad nauseum. Even when the same story is told by another writer, the tales are inevitably different. Don’t believe me? Look how many times Shakespeare has been rewritten over the centuries.
But have you ever looked at historical events and wondered what story could be told if someone like Henry VIII had lived in the 19th century instead of the 15th and 16th centuries? How would a sickness the same magnitude as the Black Plague affect today’s world? What would life look like after one of the worlds’ “super volcanos” exploded? How would an earthquake disrupt the society in which your characters live? For that matter, you could transport ideas from our history into your dystopian, fantasy, or alien setting.
These are all questions you can use to spark your imagination and to liven up your own stories. We all know that a story without conflict or adversity is boring. The best books tell of this or that character overcoming some obstacle in the way of their goal. What are those obstacles, and what innovative way can your creation overcome them?
Don’t be afraid to test your characters. Throw roadblocks at them to see how they react. Make their goal so close, yet so far away. They might surprise you.