Spinning Your Gold – Turning Family/Local History into Fiction, with Susanne Dunlap

Do you have a family story to tell?  Maybe your great uncle confessed something shocking last time you visited, or perhaps there’s a local legend connected to the history of your region?  Maybe you’ve discovered a tantalizing tidbit on Ancestry.com, or want to capture a family tale you’ve heard for years at gatherings…  Any of these can be great inspiration for a historical novel. But where to start? What if all you have is rumors and hearsay to go on? How do you figure out if there’s really a story to tell? 

In this full-day-long workshop, we’ll tackle all these questions, and more. Using the Mini Blueprint, we’ll start by sketching out the basics of what makes a compelling story arc. Then we’ll discuss research techniques, and how to be true to a period when you have few facts to go on—or how to sort through an abundance of facts to get to the actual story.

We’ll dig into character development, figuring out who your protagonist really is, or develop a historical figure into a compelling protagonist. And then I’ll introduce you to a powerful tool, the Inside Outline, and get you started with it so you can hit the ground running as you map out the essential structure of your story.

All this, plus a workbook that includes instructions for using these tools and adapting them to your purpose. By the end of the day you’ll:

  1. Know what your protagonist wants, why they want it, and what’s standing in their way
  2. Know where your story begins and ends and how it shows the character arc
  3. Learn what you need to research and how to research it to flesh out the world of your story
  4. Have the beginnings of a compelling plot outline with narrative drive that will serve as scaffolding as you write forward.

Writing a historical novel may seem daunting, but a solid day of work can set you well on your way to writing that story that’s been niggling at you.  

Susanne Dunlap is the author of eleven historical novels for adults and teens. Her young adult novel The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and it was nominated for the Missouri Gateway Readers Prize and the Utah Book Award. Her novel The Paris Affair was a first-place winner in the Chanticleer Book Awards. Susanne has a PhD in music history from Yale University and is an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach.