Writing Fiction? Read History!

Many fiction writers, myself included, are fascinated by people. Who they are, what they do, and why they do it. Which traits can be attributed to quirks of personality, and which to underlying human nature. It seems like a wonderful mystery. Who are these incredibly complex beings, living all around us and existing within our own minds? What past experiences and innate forces created who they are, and how do those influences cause them to think and act now?

To understand people, read history. Broadly, and in depth. From all cultures and time periods. Read and read history. Because only by doing so, by studying people throughout thousands of years of recorded and archaeological history, can a writer begin to grasp who people are. Fundamentally. Patterns emerge, intertwined with anomalies.

Through the lens of history, great truths about human behavior become very clear and obvious. And yet in other aspects, on the individual level, people remain that great mystery. And isn’t that why writers create characters? Delving deep into that mystery, elucidating it for themselves and for their readers.

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