I’m a big fan of historical fiction. The novel I’m working on is a near historical fiction and I have another historical fiction waiting its turn to be written. (Currently it is number three on the “to be written” list.)
I was never much of a history buff until I found historical fiction. I had difficulty remembering dates and other than passing a test couldn’t think of a good reason to put any extra effort into the topic. Reading one well-written historical fiction charged my interest in the past. Now when I read history I see beyond the dates to the people, and the stories waiting to be told.
I enjoy the way historical fiction novels allow my mind to explore familiar themes and emotions in a context that forces a different point of view. For example, the problems faced by Mary in The Other Boleyn Girl (an amazing book by an excellent author) feel real and relevant; acceptance, love, betrayal, but the way Mary deals with these emotions and the actions of those around her are vastly different then they would be today. Reality changes over time. The way we think and act change over time, and society’s reactions to our thoughts and actions also change, you guessed it, over time. What an amazing opportunity that offers to writers.
Put yourself into the past; far into the past. Imagine you woke up and the calendar read 1000 years before the date of your birth? Your thoughts and ideas are the same but you are in a different time. Would your natural opinions and actions be accepted in that time? If not, would you try to hide your opinions and change your actions to fit in? Or, would you be yourself and consequences be damned? (I am fairly certain I would have been executed for heresy for example.)
This exercise can be done as a person-out-of-place experiment with you (your character) knowing you are not in your time. Or it can be done putting yourself into the life of someone raised a thousand years ago who somehow developed the thought and action patterns that make you the person you are today.
Set a timer and aim to write on this topic for twenty minutes.