Writing Historical Stories

Shutterstock / Dmitry Demidovich ©

The “Friend” is known for its quality fiction content, and our historical stories are a big part of that. So, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some tips when it comes to writing historical stories.

Story idea

Every story starts with a spark of an idea. When it comes to historical stories, there is often more scope to produce innovative characters and plotlines. For example, eccentric inventors on the cusp of brilliant discoveries.

It could be an actual discovery/invention from a bygone time, seen through the eyes of your protagonist. As we don’t feature real people as central characters in our fiction, the protagonist could be the inventor’s assistant, a curious member of the public or even competitor.

The running of a business is a popular contemporary storyline in the magazine. For example, the goings-on in a hotel. The establishment could be facing financial difficulty, or have troublesome guests.

In such a setting, a writer might feel limited to the plotlines available to them. But place said establishment in the past opens up all manner of creative possibilities.

The hotel could become a castle, and any financial connotations could involve deceit, betrayal or even murder. The troublesome guests could be jealous landowners or spies – good or bad.

As you can see, any modern-day story scenario can serve a purpose when set during a different era.


Writers might feel daunted by facts in their historical stories. Research can help you here. Don’t feel intimidated by language, either. Often, just a spattering of dialect is enough to effectively capture a period in time.

Time period

The two World Wars and late Victorian times are popular time periods in the “Friend”. But why not try a different setting for your story?

In between the wars is an option, as is early Victorian. And recent decades can also prove a source of abundant story ideas. I hate to say it as they were my teenage years, but in the “The People’s Friend” we deem the 1980s as period – yikes!

Time to dig out your old vinyl records and games, if you still have them, for story inspiration.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.