Young adult historical fiction can offer readers conflict and alternative ways of being that can help adolescents navigate the path to adulthood.
Throughout history, fear and superstition have ravaged the hearts and minds of peoples of Europe. Witches, werewolves and vampires were blamed for all manner of atrocities and trivialities. Tied to religious fervor, anti-Semitic sentiment and social control, an estimated 110,000 witch trials took place across Europe; 48% of these ending in execution. (Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 1995.) Today, our fascination with witches, werewolves and vampires is seen in popular literature and film.
This week I continue research 18th century medicines and herbal remedies. It’s fascinating actually – gruesome and bizarre! Given the protagonist of my historical fiction, Annabella, is a healer, I need to develop a working knowledge of herbs to build accuracy and authenticity. Annabella is treating a princess (historical figure who died of a ‘mystery’ illness). Of course today, doctors could diagnose the princess’ illness; at the time however, her symptoms had the villagers gossiping – pale skin, an aversion to sunlight, reddened urine…not surprising then that the villagers thought her a vampire. And you know how gossip grows and spreads.
Authors may have a commitment to writing, but inspiration and enthusiasm, it seems, come in waves. After months of writing, I am stuck and I need your help.
My novel is about difference, discrimination and the search for belonging. It is a fantasy historical fiction in which the protagonist, Annabella, works for an eccentric princess (who is suspected of vampirism. – But it is not a vampire novel!) Along the way, she makes three good friends, finds love and discovers the secrets of her past, but is persecuted by the villagers.
I have been creating more characters for my novel and, given the novel has some historical basis, I have been researching too. History is rife with interesting tales. As a writing activity, select a place, breifly research its history, its culture, etc., and write a brief character profile on one of its previous inhabitants – in whatever format you want (dot points, a list of characteristics, a character biography paragraph. As you write, try to find the ‘voice’ of the character. It is a useful exercise to write this for a character who is completely different to you, trying to write in a voice that is not your own, but that belongs fully to the character.