Historical Fiction Defined

Historical fiction’s definition according to dictionary.com is “the genre of literature, film, etc., comprising narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages.”

This definition suggests that while these literature works occur in the past they are not entirely based on factual information. For instance, a fictional character could be documented in a historic situation or, a fictional situation taking place during a real historical period.

H. Scott Dalton describes what writers seek to answer with historical fiction works in his post “What is Historical Fiction?” “The historian, at the most basic level, seeks to answer the question “What happened?” By contrast, the writer of historical fiction seeks to explain “What was it like?”  This suggests that the historian describes a situation by telling the reader what, for example, the individual did, how they lived, or even what their background was.  They help us imagine what the time period was like, viewing it from a distance.  Whereas, the fiction writer describes a character’s feeling or emotions and puts the reader directly in their shoes.

Historical fiction is not meant for simply explaining facts about history like a typical high school social studies book might but, immerse the reader into the period and allow them to relive experiences during that time.


Dalton, H. S. (2006). What is Historical Fiction? Retrieved April 2016, from Vision: A Resource for Writers: http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue34/historicalfic.htm