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Historical fiction is a literary genre where the story takes place in the past.
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Historical fiction is a literary genre where the story takes place in the past.

Historical novels capture the details of the time period as accurately as possible for authenticity, including social norms, manners, customs, and traditions.

Historical Fiction is set in a real place, during a culturally recognizable time. The details and the action in the story can be a mix of actual events and ones from the author's imagination as they fill in the gaps. Characters can be pure fiction or based on real people (often, it's both).

In general writers of fiction must address seven crucial elements: character, dialogue, setting, theme, plot, conflict, and world building. The characters could be based off of real or imaginary individuals.

The Adjacencies

  • Historical Fantasy. Historical Fantasy tends to follow many of the “rules” of pure historical fiction
  • Alternative History. Alternative history takes the notion of speculative elements in an entirely different direction
  • Historical Mystery
  • Historical Romance

Three techniques of historical fiction are to include real events and fictional people, fictional events and real people, or real events and real people.

Historical fiction is stories set in the past. Historical fiction seeks to recreate the aura of a time past, reconstructing characters, events, movements, ways of life, and the spirit of a bygone day. The time period--and its portrayal--is at the core of the story.

One of the most successful writers of historical novels is Hilary Mantel. Other writers of historical fiction include Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, Sarah Waters, Ken Follett, George Saunders, Shirley Hazzard and Julie Orringer.

Characteristics and Similarities Between Realistic and Historical Fiction. Realistic fiction is the outcome of the real situation which happens in one's life. Historical fiction is the outcome of the story which happened in the past. The characters in realistic fiction bear resemblance to the people in true life.

In a work of historical fiction, the story takes place in the past, but characters, actions, and other details are fictionalized. Creative nonfiction, on the other hand, is a broad term that encompasses many different types of writing (and, it seems worth noting, not all of it is historical).

Reading history allows us to understand what happened. Reading historical fiction allows us to be moved by what happened. Even after we know the facts, we continue to search for sense and meaning. That is at the essence of our humanity.

And so there are three categories of historical fiction: accurate, inaccurate, and in the middle. These three categories of accuracy can likely be divided into subcategories and mixed together. In each of them are good stories with well-developed characters and great writing.

Subgenres of Historical Fiction

  • Traditional Historical Fiction
  • Multi-Period Epics, Series, and Sagas
  • Historical Romantic Fiction
  • Historical Western Fiction
  • Mysteries, Thrillers, and Adventure Novels
  • Time-Travel, Alternate Histories, Fantasy, Literary and Christian Novels