Years ago a friend talked with me about a wonderful historical novel she had read. Excited, I asked its name, only to learn it was a Louis L’Amour western. Well, yes, it was about the past but historical fiction it was not. And just lately I critiqued a selection supposedly of historical fiction. Again, it seemed to be a novel simply set in the old west. The question, then, is what exactly is historical fiction.
I can best answer this with my own preferences.
7 Characteristics of Great Historical Fiction:
- The books must exhibit a high level of writing, be literary even.
- The setting is a real slice of history.
- Fictional characters interact with real characters and events and the historical timeline is absolutely correct.
- The plot may be focused on the fictional characters but it is intertwined with real events in an in-depth, complicated, yet seamless way.
- The fictional characters are so well drawn and integrated into history that the reader almost believes they are real.
- At the end of the novel the reader wants more of the story.
- During and after reading the novel, the reader does more research of actual historical events because her curiosity has been piqued and she isn’t ready to let the novel end.
These are factors which make historical fiction popular. I also believe the genre is just a little bit closer to reality so many of us can relate that much easier. Studying history in school was not real to me as it entailed memorizing a lot of dates and facts. The story was missing. Now I have learned to envision the story behind the facts, and love to read actual history books. Weaving my own stories around those facts is a delight.
Are you a lover of historical fiction? What do you like most about it? Or, heaven forbid, dislike about it? Consider leaving a comment about your own favorite genre.