by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
When I was in American History class (back in the Dark Ages), we were taught to memorize dates and battles and lists. Lists can bore me still.
I didn’t realize then that I would grow to love American history. I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, not realizing they were about history. The missing ingredient in the classroom was people. I needed someone to care about.
Laura’s books involved me in her family’s struggles as they settled in different places across America. She made history come alive for me.
When I write historical fiction, I always begin with a character, a person whose eyes I can tell the story through, a person a reader can care about. The story might be set against an actual event or maybe just an interesting time period. But it has to begin and end with a person.
My characters are fictional, but I try to breathe life into them. If I do that successfully, my readers will be able to live inside that character for the length of the story. They will hear the cannons at Gettysburg, smell the smoke after the Monongah mine explosion, or feel the excitement of a girl seeing an automobile for the first time.
That is why I write historical fiction. I want to transport a reader to a different time and place, to let them see through a character’s eyes, feel that character’s heartbeat. I want them to care enough so that history lives.