As a writer, I consider myself a storyteller. That’s why history captivates my interest. To me, history extends beyond dates and places; it encompasses the complex stories of the human experience. However, in the narrative of our past, some stories remain untold. On the edges of history, hundreds of experiences wait to be shared. By telling a single person’s story, we can magnify their voice and their experiences, and alter how everyday people view the past. That is where storytelling and history intersect.
If I embarked on a cross-disciplinary project at Sarah Lawrence College, I would write a well-researched historical fiction novel or novella that tells an unexpected story. This project would incorporate multiple areas of study. I would utilize my skills as a writer to craft a fiction narrative. I would also extensively research my subject, not only to find inspiration, but to find details that make my historical setting as intricate and vivid as possible. Though some might not think so, research is crucial to historical fiction. The clothing the characters would wear, the food they’d eat, the expressions they’d use, the way the sea smells or the air moves in the place where they live: all these details seem inane, but these are the facts that give life and depth to a time period.
The period I’m most drawn to for a project like this is World War II. I’ve learned about World War II in every history class since fifth grade and every year I learn something new. It was truly a global experience; few people on Earth were untouched. Several years ago, I was researching WWII for a school project and found old radio broadcasts describing the fortification of Iceland when 25,000 Allied troops occupied the island. This astounded me. Who ever thinks of Iceland having a role in WWII? This experience showed me that historical events impact unexpected places, and I want to share these profound impacts with others.
I could tell any historical event through a purely factual narrative. However, I believe the creative element allows readers to truly sympathize with the suffering and conflict. Many regard people in the past as entirely separate from people living today. They overlook the emotional motives for actions, the love and fear people felt while witnessing these historical events. These elements of humanity are universal. By setting a fictional story in a historical time and place, I could capture these emotions as well as the events, and share a greater understanding of the past with readers.
From a creative standpoint, history provides endless inspiration. There is always something new to learn, something unexpected to find, and some other story to tell. I want to reveal every story I can find, and do so through historical research that explores each aspect of the time period. Writing a well-researched historical fiction novel would allow me to do just that and unite my passion for storytelling with my love of the past.
Tips for Writing:
For this essay, I had to respond to a supplemental prompt about a creative or research project I’d like to work on at that college. I started with a brainstorming of every possible topic I could think of and narrowed it down from there. Then I wrote a first draft and let it be as terrible as possible. Once I had words on the page, I could edit them. The most important thing I learned to include in college essays is specific details. The fewer generalizations you have in an essay, the more planned out and put together it feels. You also give the best sense of who you are when you include details. After I’d written this essay, I asked my parents, a friend and my English teacher to help me edit it. I considered all of their suggestions but didn’t necessarily include all their edits. Ultimately, the most important thing is that my essay sounds and feels like me.