How History Inspires Great Stories

Looking for a great read or a great story to write? Have you checked out what history has to offer? There is a ton of material right there ready for you to dive in and explore. Don’t believe me? Let’s explore some great stories history has given writers.

In the Movies

This is one of the easiest sections as most everyone watches movies or TV shows. History appears in the vast majority, and you probably don’t even realize it. What about these shows:

  • Mutiny on the Bounty

  • Spartacus

  • The Last Emperor

  • Elizabeth

  • Shakespeare in Love

  • The Titanic

  • The Three Musketeers

Rather obvious that they are historical pieces, but think of how great these stories are because of history. It was history that gave the writers materials and the actors inspiration. The same happens in literature.


In Literature

Let’s take a bestseller almost everyone knows because if they didn’t read the book, they saw the movie - The DaVinci Code. This book wouldn’t have been possible without history inspiring it. It starts with an historical painting and the man who painted it. From there it goes even further back into history and pulls from Biblical times before moving forward again to the present day and the secrets that might have been. A great modern mystery full of twists and turns inspired solely by history. And that’s just one contemporary book.

Many of the bestsellers in the last couple of decades have been based on history. Their stories come from the past whether that past is true or not. The point is that they are based on history. Here are a few examples of contemporary books inspired by history.


Natchez Burning

#1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated novel yet and his first in five years—Natchez Burning—the first installment in an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community is accused of murdering Violet Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father, even though Tom, stubbornly evoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to speak up in his own defense.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. With the aid of a local friend and reporter privy to some of Natchez's oldest and deadliest secrets, Penn follows a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one—black or white, young or old, brave or not—is ever truly safe.

With everything on the line, including his own life, Penn must decide how far he will go to protect those he loves . . . and see justice done, once and for all.

Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense and disturbing, it is the most explosive, exciting, sexy, and ambitious story Greg Iles has written yet.

Orphan Train

Orphan Train is a gripping story of friendship and second chances from Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be.

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...

As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

A Game of Thrones

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.


In an Arizona desert, a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world, archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened up to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival—six hundred years ago.


History is not just a thing of the past. It is something that is alive as it impacts the present and the future. That is why it is so much fun to use in plots whether it is on the big screen or between the pages of a book. Let the past give you a story.

More by this Author

No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article