At midnight on August 2, 2008, after several hours of playing Twilight Trivia and other related games at the Hamilton Borders (now BAM), my best friend Aly and I finally got our copies of the much-anticipated book Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer. The rest of the weekend we spent our time devouring the 756-page book. Although my love for the Twilight series faded, my love for fantasy has not, and was recently reignited when I decided to read the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice this past year. The series and YouTubers Christy Anne Jones and withCindy inspired me to check out other authors like Neil Gaiman and AJ Hackwith.
My dive into fiction – primarily fantasy coincided with my roughly six-month break from researching and doing history independently from my job. The more I dived into the genre, I began to feel excited again about returning to my own writing. I began to see different ways in which stepping into these worlds would help me create the worlds of the past.
I struggled a lot with writing in both my undergrad and graduate career. I always loved writing and wanted to be published, so I had to improve. I am thankful for my own stubbornness and for my professors who showed me how to proofread papers, those who would read drafts and send me comments and suggestions, and who referred me to the tutoring center. The best feedback I ever received was that my writing was kind of boring, which was incredibly freeing. I could now be creative within the framework of historical accuracy.
“Building the world” in which the historical person existed or that the event occurred was stressed in graduate school. What did the area look like, the people, the sounds, the smell, etc? What were the norms, values, beliefs, and expectations of the people? Building the world, so that the viewer could fully understand the window of time that they were meant to look into and learn of was/is imperative when learning how to write history.
Although reading secondary sources is helpful in learning different writing styles by seeing how other historians write, reading fiction can help in building that world as well in a creative way. Diving more into fiction, particularly fantasy, and taking a bit of a break from history has allowed my brain to take a breather from overt critical thinking and has allowed me to let my imagination take off. I have experienced other worlds that are explained to me which causes my brain to visualize the spaces, characters, and tales of either magical realms or realms in which magic exists. Imagining these worlds and consuming the literature can help when building the worlds of the past with different levels of description. It also can help with critical thinking. Scholar, David Glenn Hodgdon argued in his dissertation that “…that there is a strong connection between critical thinking and the imagination, a connection which increases the dynamism and vitality of critical thinking.”(1) The world of fantasy will be beneficial to the construction of the worlds of the past.
I am sure there is a ton of scholarship on this already, but I found it interesting to experience the connection within my own writing. I am looking forward to continuing to check out more fantasy titles and am thankful for them bringing magic to life through their writing. Especially as I want to look for magic in the everyday!
My GoodReads Account.
(1)David Glenn Hodgon, “Critical thinking: A voyage of the imagination,” (University of New Hampshire, 1996).