Many of my books are historical fiction novels. The idea of transporting yourself back to some era in Time is fascinating – if only because there is just so darn much to learn.
Historical movies such as Schindler’s List, Lawrence of Arabia, Enemy at the Gates, The Pianist allow watchers to lose themselves in Time. But for so many people, nothing beats a good book.
Some of my favorite historical novels include:
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg
Hawaii by James A. Michener
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
Every historical fiction novel list is subjective. Yours is surely different. Nobody likes the same kind of chocolates in the candy store.
Traits of Historical Fiction Books
- Mix of actual and fictional events – The big things that happened during an era are usuall true with minor events fictionalized.
- Characters are wrestling with problems that reflect the era. (A believable plot where ordinary people are shaped and changed by the period of time they live in.)
- A good plot that holds readers’ interests.
- The tone of the story is reflected by an authentic setting. (The setting is a historically real location and time period.
- The era is one that interests readers. (Dialogue is authentic to the time period. Values of that period are reflected in the story.)
Why Writers Love Historical Fiction
There are certain periods in history that we naturally gravitate towards. Eras that are packed with emotional pivot points spark a writer’s imagination. Careful research plus creativity can be a recipe for a powerful, gripping story.
World building is one of the essential tools in an author’s tool kit. There are some points in history that grab our attention, that cry out for embellishment, or that simply are so weird, fantastic, or life-changing that they cannot be ignored.
And as an added bonus, the setting/time period is handed to the writer on a silver platter.
Curiosity is another reason why writers love historical fiction. If a particular moment in the past fascinates someone, how much harder is he going to work to make it come alive for his readers? That’s an added incentive to try to capture the feel or the general aura of certain times in history.
Periods in history where change was occurring at a lightning pace, decades where the outcome of wars determined the course of history, etc., etc., etc. Such plums in history are ripe fruit for writers.
Putting a character in a certain time in history allows the author to explore human frailties, courage, wickedness, and all the intertwining characteristics of Man. An author can throw a microscope on mankind, teach lessons, reveal secrets, and explore to infinity the possibilities of human nature – how characters will act or not under certain circumstances.
Historical fiction can breathe life into the past. A talented writer can make his readers lose themselves, letting them escape into a time that words have made real. Readers can be transported back in Time, feel the grit, the grime, the sweat, the heartache, the passion of the past by creating an authentic reality that never existed.
Historical fiction is by its very nature unreal. Its make believe and fantasy. A story whipped up from thin air, yet with a talented writer, the world that is woven is, in the reader’s mind at least, as powerful and as believable as reality.
Historical fiction authors have the freedom to explore and created without the confines of historical researchers. We are not bound by literal truth, yet the successful stories have elements of truth in them. The point in history that an author sets the story in is the anchor, the story is the boat, and it floats on an ocean of ideas and possibility.