On Writing a Historically-Accurate Paranormal Short Story

Currently, I’m working on revisions for a short story entitled THE QUEEN OF CROWS that will be released as part of a digital product through Flames Rising Press. Set in the late 1800s, the plot revolves around a Navajo medicine man who is trying to summon a vengeance goddess called Mahochepi, the Queen of Crows.

This story has evolved several times from its original incarnation, but the process of editing it has taken longer than some of my other stories. Why? Well, part of the reason is because this story was inspired by a historical event called the “Long Walk.” At the time, the U.S. government had planned to develop a center for Native Americans at a place called “Bosque Redondo.” The center would function as a kind of “rehabilitation” center, where Native Americans would be (for lack of a better word) Americanized. Needless to say, there’s a lot of pieces to the story that required research. For example, did you know that the Navajo refer to themselves as the Diné? Or that they lived in houses called hogans?

Although this story is a work of fiction, I wanted to give the work an authentic feel without giving my readers a history lesson. Therein lies the need for multiple revisions. You see, regardless of what my intent for the story is, my readers still have to enjoy what I’ve written. Writing anything based on a historical time period is tricky business for any writer. In my case, I found it hard to swallow my editor’s comments that there were sections that came across as being too preachy. What I wound up realizing, was that I was trying too hard to offer readers a chance to empathize with the main character. To me, the idea of being removed from my house to be re-trained to live in a different society is pretty terrifying. While that concept is part of my story, it’s really only one aspect of it. After all, this story is about what happens in my fictional world, not what happened in a factual timeline.

Because this story will fit together neatly within my Violet War setting, there are a number of paranormal elements to it. Those elements give me a wider berth in terms of what should be (or what shouldn’t be) historically-accurate. Once you introduce magic into any setting, the standard rules may no longer apply. I’m finding that the history portion needed to be there, because it serves as a great foundation. Now, I can go in and “adjust the volume” to better integrate the paranormal elements.

While I didn’t expect to go through another round of revisions, this process reminded me that it’s easy to have a distorted view of your story when you’re really close to it. By the end of the day, however, this will be a much better story once its done. To me, it will never be “good enough,” but like all writers, I’m definitely my own worst critic.

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Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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