Generating Ideas for Writing - Pulling from History

Sometimes, many times, life is stranger than fiction. In a story things have to make sense. They have to go together and there have to be reasons for things. In life, that is not always the case. When looking for inspiration it can be useful to look at what real people have really done.


Some of my favorite characters from history are Benjamin Franklin, Casanova, Alcibiades, and Theodore Roosevelt. Stories can and will be told about their lives 'till the end of time (human existence). The interesting characters in history make such a large list that you cannot possibly read all of their stories, but you can take from the ones that you do know.

It is famously known that George R. R. Martin based the idea of A Song of Ice and Fire on the War of the Roses. I watched a lecture recently where Brandon Sanderson used the example of Hannibal crossing the alps with elephants. Change the context and you can keep coming up with great stories. A general crosses the alps with elephants. A general crosses the galaxy with warships. A general crosses the ocean with warships. A general crosses the desert with dragons. A general crosses the underworld with demons. A general crosses the rainforest with ghosts. A general crosses the city with rabid dogs. This can go on for a long time.

I am going to take an interesting piece of American history and see how I can adapt it. When people think of Aaron Burr they usually just think of him shooting Alexander Hamilton. I think of something different. I think of the Vice President of the United States that conspired with the head of the military (which was a spy for the King of Spain) to form a private army and take the United States capital by force. He was then captured, tried for treason, let go, moved away, then moved back. That is the basic idea, you can do more research if you would like, but this general idea is all I need for what I want to do. Can I change the context and make an interesting story out of this? Let's see.

The Vice President of a large space confederacy kills a political rival in an illegal duel. His political ambitions wrecked, he colludes with a general (who is also a spy for a rival nation) to form a private army and conquer the confederacy. In his attempt he is abandoned by the general and captured. Because the government doesn't want some of the troubles that may come with killing a former Vice President for treason, the high court lets him go and he moves to a far planet.

That sounds like a pretty good story to me. It would probably work well as a movie trilogy. I may explore this type of idea more in the future. You are welcome to join me in my explorations of stories at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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