Novel Writing: Town History, Part 4

It’s always fun to dig into the history of the town you’re writing about.

In my novel, To Rise, I incorporate into one of my scenes a delightful poem written by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr that encourages Laurie, my main character. (Since Laurie’s father is a writer, it’s only fitReinhold Niebuhrting that Niebuhr knows the family — writers unite.)whimsical map of Illinois

Granted, you’re thinking of “The Serenity Prayer,” but this is not the poem I’m referring to, because this well-known poem was published in 1951. And my novel is set in the 1940s. Definitely using the fiction side of historical fiction!

Doing a bit of research behind the author of the famous poem, I discovered that Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr grew up in Lincoln, Illinois. His father was the administrator of the Deaconess Hospital in Lincoln. One of his brothers, Walter, was managing editor of the Lincoln Daily NewsHerald newspaper, until he passed away in 1946.
Niebuhr children
Siblings, Left to Right: H. Richard, Reinhold, Hulda, and Walter Niebuhr
A theologian, Reinhold was Dean and Professor of Applied Christianity at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. His photo was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1948. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and was in the top 100 most influential people in the twentieth century (Life magazine, 1990).
So, the next time you’re writing historical fiction or reading historical fiction, appreciate the depth of research it took to create even a small scene to “get the facts just right.” It really adds meaning to the depth of the novel.
What interesting research have you read about, or uncovered?
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