Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy – and finding your story.


Member Blog by David Thomas Kay

Many authors create their novels in a modern-day environment they are familiar with; others write Historical Fiction in a period of their choice.

I prefer writing progressive Historical Fiction and let good narrative and the passage of time move the stories forward.

Fiction! A fascinating subject. I enjoy reading Science Fiction, Fantasy, and modern-day Fiction. So, why did I choose to write ‘Historical’ Fiction?

Simply because I am a genealogist who loves researching past generations, the rulers of the day, the kings, and queens, culture and ever-changing religions, and I love Folklore and Mythology.

The stories are there to be found and developed, however, Fiction must be believable, and based on fact. Your story can only benefit by studying the environment that your characters inhabit.

DNA tracing suggested my ancestors came from Southern Norway and settled in the Lake District via the Isle of Mann. So, my first novel travelled beyond my research, into the realms of the Norse Vikings. I had to study Scandinavian history and Nordic mythology, and this became the foundation of my series ‘Circles of Time’.


The first story tellers were the cave dwellers, recounting their tribal wars, and their experiences of hunting and gathering.

As time moved on, they began to exaggerate their stories to entertain their listeners, and this is the first evidence of fiction based on fact. Their stories progressed into the Fantasy of Dreams and the creation of Gods. You could say this was Fiction based on Fantasy.


The stories of the Rainbow Serpent and the Three Sisters.

Aboriginal Dreamtime stories of how the world began.

Zeus of Greek mythology, Jupiter of ancient Rome, and Thor of Norse mythology. Zeus, Jupiter and Thor were Gods of the sky and of Thunder and Lightning. Three civilizations from different eras with the same beliefs, mythology, or stories passed down for centuries. They are an endless source of material for today’s writers and film producers.

Nordic kings hired Skalds, from their own ranks, to exaggerate and glorify their victorious battles. These Scandinavian poets created legends that were based on fact but verged on fantasy.


Then, we have the modern-day fantasy of Science Fiction.

The Day of the Triffids and Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Dune, and the most fascinating of all stories for young and old; the endless number of children’s Fantasy books. They stir the imagination of a child, and often grown-ups, as they enjoy the ‘suspension of belief’; the space between fantasy and reality. The adaptation to television and cinema extends our fantasy as we are persuaded to enter a new world of entertaining escapism.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and … The Never-Ending Story. These are only a small sample of the numerous children’s classics, enjoyed by all ages and recognised as expanding the development of a young mind.

There are talking animals, mythical creatures, dwarves and centaurs, child protagonists, and evil witches. There are adventures galore and, as always, the clash between good and evil. It’s not surprising how many of these protagonists fly like birds – Peter Pan and Harry Potter.

Fantasy is escapism and readers are willing to be transported to another world, to be entertained and escape reality for a short time.

However, the rules of writing don’t change because of the genre, or the location.

There are goodies and baddies everywhere and a story must have a hero-protagonist and a villain-antagonist to create friction and conflict.

They say that everyone has a story to tell, but once told, what then?

Stories are all around us if we are observant. Stories from the past have already been acted out, but the same story can be changed with the creation of new characters. Examples are the modern-day versions of Fairy Tales.

Stories are about people and their personalities are the catalyst that will bring your story to life. How well you develop your characters will determine your success. Place them in a stressful situation and your characters will develop. Friction between a villain and a hero leads to conflict and suspense, which in turn leads to emotion and stress, and a test of their character.

From this conflict, a new personality can emerge, weak or strong, and be accepted by the reader. A strong, well-developed personality can dictate the progress of a story and change the direction of the plot. The story will take on a new perspective, and the reader will follow on, unaware.

Authors welcome these situations and follow the emerging character with increasing interest. How many times have you heard an author relating how his main protagonist has taken over, and is leading him into uncharted territory?

It’s exciting for the writer and rejuvenating for the story.

In the world of today’s Fiction writing, we embellish with a game called ‘Poetic License’. This is necessary to the art of storytelling and is a game played by the reader and the writer. It is known as ‘suspension of belief’, or how far to go with Fantasy without losing your credibility with the reader.

When you are writing obsessively and forget to eat, it’s safe to say that you have found your elusive story. Happy writing!

David Thomas Kay – Contributor

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