Historical Fiction includes any book written about a time in the past, based on factual evidence but following a storyline that is mostly made up. The characters in the story can even have been real people, but the key is that the writer takes his/her own liberties to personally interpret those people, their interactions with one another, and events that believably could have happened in their lifetime but didn’t in reality. Historical Fiction can include events such as the Revolutionary War or Nazi concentration camps, or it can merely include everyday life in the 1950s. It’s all up to the author. Some famous books under this genre include Iron Thunder by Avi, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.
Overall, there are three main advantages to both writing Historical Fiction and reading it. First, it brings history to life in a way that most Social Studies textbooks fail to. Second, it makes you curious about the “real” story, the people and events of the past whom you’ve now read about but further want to understand the truth of. Third, it connects readers to their past in a new and profound way.
History, simply put, is a factual record of the past. The reason it is so often taught in school is to teach lessons. It shows how people’s sometimes minor decisions can have life-changing impacts on others, sometimes for the better, but also often for the worse. Looking back in the past allows people to learn from humanity’s previous mistakes and grow from them, but it also teaches them to be proud of those wise and beneficial decisions which were made and to repeat them. Historical fiction takes it a step further in that not only is it providing lifelong lessons, but it is doing so in a more eye-capturing and interesting way, and thus, reaching more people in the long run, teaching more lessons to the general populace, both young and old.
Another advantage to Historical Fiction is that it spurs writers of it to learn more about the “real” past in addition to encouraging readers to do the same. Writers have to do it as they write Historical Fiction in order to make sure key events and people are not so adapted as to lose their truth. Readers end up researching similar topics after reading one such novel because they become driven to understand more deeply what they had read about, to distinguish for themselves the facts of it from the descriptive liberties taken by the author.
All people are related in the sense that they are all human. They share emotions, reason, and species. When reading something about others like them, others who actually lived in this world and accomplished great things, people are naturally put in awe. They are drawn to stories of such people, because even if they are fictional, there were people like them, going through similar struggles in the past. And though their struggles were different from people’s today, they share in that same humanity of suffering under pressure, of feeling deep emotions when things get hard. And so, in reading or writing about these characters in Historical Fiction, people gain a sense of, “If they could do it, I can.” Further, they begin to feel connected to those of the past who were in so many ways similar to themselves.
In conclusion, Historical Fiction is an excellent genre, one which provides knowledge and connection, feeding the reason and emotions of the soul.
One thought on “Genres of Fiction: Historical Fiction”
Nice post! Yeah, sometimes I play with the idea of historical fiction. Truly good historical fiction is well-researched and takes delight in what COULD be.
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