Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Historical Fiction 101- Part 1

What exactly IS historical fiction? That's what I'm going to answer today.

Webster's defines historical as "of, relating to, or having the character of history". I like that definition. It works well with historical fiction.

I think we all know what fiction means. So when you put the two together, we get something along the lines of "a work of fiction that relates to or has the character of history." I particularly like this because I love historical novels where the actual history is as much a character as the characters themselves.

Having spent 4 years working at a plantation, I regularly encountered the opinion that history is boring and dull. That it was just a list of numbers, dates and facts. Any history nut will tell you otherwise. History is fascinating. Why did people think like that, what forces shaped their world, how did societal values affect daily life. I believe it is the duty of the historical fiction author to portray these things in a manner that the public can relate to, then bring it to life and help people see that history is not boring or dull.

Every culture in the world needs to know their history. Those who do not know the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat those mistakes. Unfortunately that seems to be happening more and more here in the U.S. So if it's happening here, I would imagine it's happening in other countries as well. We must know our history. We must preserve it for the next generation and we must make it real. I believe that is an integral part of writing historical fiction.

The next installment will be Thursday, and we'll look at the different time periods that fall under the heading of historical fiction.

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