Looking for all Articles by Hannah Sycamore?

Use objects to inspire historical fiction writing

Using objects from the International Slavery Museum to inspire writing.

Genre: Fiction, History
Topics: , Anti-racism

Last updated: 27 January 2023

From 25-29 October, author Alex Wheatle has been touring schools around Scotland, talking about his latest book Cane Warriors and true story that inspired it. Set in Jamaica in 1760, it tells the story of a real life rebellion in a British-owned slave plantation. Alex drew upon materials available in the UK and travelled to Jamaica to research the revolt and pin down the historical facts to inspire his story. You can read more in his top tips for writing historical fiction.

For those of us unable to travel right now, the International Slavery Museum, based in Liverpool, offer some fantastic online resources(this link will open in a new window) on the history of the slave trade which can be used as a starting point for writing.

The museums virtual tour(this link will open in a new window) is the ideal place to start. You can follow a tour of the gallery spaces, and look at high quality images of the artefacts and information on display. Choose one of the images, quotes or stories you can see as part of the virtual tour to inspire your writing.

Write a short piece of historical fiction, a short story or poem using something you come into contact with during the tour. The questions below are to help you get started.

Explore your senses

Think about your sense in relation to your chosen object. It might help to imagine holding it in your hands as you answer these questions:

Weave the answers to these questions into your writing. Including reference to the senses in your writing can help add detail and richness to your story or poem.

Other questions to consider

Once you have chosen an object or story you want to write about, you might want to do some more research on that object and explore all the information on International Slavery Museum website(this link will open in a new window) in more detail. Other questions to explore could be:

Alex Wheatle is touring schools as part of Black History Month, find more books and event by exploring our Black History Month page.