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WE 151 Writing Stories from History

Teacher Tips and Answers


Learning Log
© Thoughtful Learning 2024

Page 151

Writing Stories from History

You weren’t around when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. You weren’t at the Battle of the Alamo. You didn’t get to witness the moon landing (but maybe your teacher did).

Even so, history belongs to you. You can step back through time by learning about a person, a place, or an event in history and writing a story. The distant past can become your familiar present.

Use this chapter to fire up your time machine!


What’s Ahead


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Writing a Historical Story


Prewriting Planning Your Story

Get Historical 🟪 A historical story brings a person, a place, or an event back to life. You may write about a real person . . . or create a character who takes part in a real event. Think of an interesting time in history and journey there in your mind. Who would you be? What would you be doing? Would you change history? As you consider these questions, ideas for your story may start to form.

List Ideas 🟪 Make a list of historical people, places, and events that come to mind. Here are some ideas:




Frederick Douglass

The White House



The Alamo

The Moon Landing

Jackie Robinson

Niagara Falls

“I Have a Dream”

Susan B. Anthony

New Orleans

Trail of Tears

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Choose a Subject 🟪 Look over your list and circle the idea that interests you the most. This idea will be the starting point for your story. Write freely for 3–5 minutes about your subject. Write down everything you know about this subject. Doing so will show you what already know and what you still need to find out.

Gather Facts 🟪 To begin your gathering, look in your history book to find facts about your subject. Then check other reference books, search the Internet, or watch a video. Ask your teacher or librarian for help. Carefully write down all the important facts and figures you discover.

The facts below were collected for a story about the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Facts give you background information and interesting details you can use in your story. Remember, though, you don’t need to use every fact in your story.

Facts About the Moon Landing

  • It happened July 20, 1969.

  • A Saturn V rocket took them to Earth orbit.

  • It took three more days to reach the Moon.

  • The Moon is 238,900 miles from Earth.

  • Michael Collins flew the command module, Columbia, in orbit around the Moon.

  • Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin flew the Eagle down to land in the Sea of Tranquility.

  • Armstrong had to take over the landing process because of a field of boulders.

  • He set down with only 30 seconds of fuel left.

  • He said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

  • Armstrong and Aldrin walked around on the Moon, gathered samples, planted a flag, and left a plaque.

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Identify Your Story Elements 🟪 After collecting a good number of facts, it’s time to plan the basic elements of your story. You can begin by identifying the characters, the setting, and the action. A collection sheet like the one below can help you keep track of all these elements. Use your sheet as you write, but feel free to make changes as your story develops.

Collection Sheet


(Decide how each character will look, speak, and act. Keep the time period of your story in mind at all times!)




(Describe the time and place of your story. Keep the setting historically accurate.)



Main Action:

(What action or event will your character participate in? The details in this part may or may not be true, but they must be believable. The main action should include a problem to be solved.)



Story Scenes:

(What things will your character be doing in this story: eating, hunting, exploring?)




(Decide on a form—you may use the basic story form or try something different, like diary entries or a series of letters.)



Tip You could also collect information by answering these basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Why not? What if? How?

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Writing Developing Your First Draft

Begin Your Story 🟪 Get your readers interested by introducing your characters and the historical event right away. Begin with dialogue, action, or a lively description. Here’s how Gary Copeland, a student writer, began his story:

Neil Armstrong opened the hatches between the Columbia Command Module and the Lunar Lander, Eagle. “Well, here we go,” he said as he glided through the opening. His white flight suit vanished into the Eagle, and Buzz Aldrin followed.

Michael Collins started to close the hatch behind them. “Good luck, you two. That lander is the weirdest looking contraption I’ve ever seen in the sky.”

The airlocks sealed, and Armstrong’s voice came across the intercom: “Prepare for separation.”

Keep Your Story Going 🟪 Once you begin the main action, keep your characters moving forward with different actions and scenes. Add background facts where they fit. Here’s a scene from the middle of Gary’s story:

“We can’t set down in that boulder field!” Aldrin said, pointing through the window of Eagle.

“I see it,” Armstrong replied, tight lipped. “I’ll have to override the landing sequence and see if we can get to that clear space.”

Armstrong switched to manual control and fired the engine to give them a little more lift.

“Fuel’s low, Commander,” Aldrin said, tapping a gauge. “Only minutes away for a safe abort.”

“Roger,” replied Armstrong. His eyes darted between the landing windows. “I think we’ll have just enough to get us there.”

Suddenly, an alarm began to blare. . . .

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End Your Story 🟪 Don’t drag your story out. End it soon after the main action is completed or the problem is addressed for good. Remember that not every story has to have a happy ending.

With just 30 seconds of fuel left, the lander touched ground. “Contact light!” Armstrong said, shutting off the engines. “The Eagle has landed.”

The astronauts began preparations for their moon walk.

While they worked, Aldrin radioed Earth: “This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

At last, they were ready for their moon walk. The capsule depressurized. Armstrong opened the hatch and slowly descended the ladder.

As he took his first step onto the lunar surface, he said words broadcast to half a billion viewers across the world: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Revising and Editing Improving Your Draft

Use a Checklist 🟪 Use the questions below as a guide for revising your story. (See page 66 for an editing and proofreading checklist.)

_____ Is the story based on historical fact?

_____ Do the characters’ words and actions make sense for that historical time? (Abe Lincoln wouldn’t sit in the Oval Office playing Mario Kart.)

_____ Does the story build interest? (The main character should complete some important action or solve a problem in the story.)

_____ Does the story end in a logical, satisfying way?

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