"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." - C.S. Lewis

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Historical fiction or fiction set in history?

My assignment: write a historical fiction short story set in any time period I choose.  My problem: what constitutes historical fiction?

I've been wondering about this lately, and I wanted to know what you guys think about it.  Is historical fiction a story surrounding a particular, specific event?  Or is it a work of fiction set in any time that's before now?

I could easily come up with a storyline that is set in a historical time...but doesn't really have much to do with an actual event or social issues of the period (for example: is Anne of Green Gables historical fiction?).  Obviously, a story like To Kill a Mockingbird is historical fiction, as it deals with social problems of the time.  But technically, if the setting is before now it's in history, and if it's not nonfiction it's fiction.  That presents a very broad scope.

What do you think?  I'd like your opinions if you have the time.


  1. I don't really know the exact definition for "historical fiction," but I've always thought of it as fiction set in the past that ALSO teaches us something about the past... whether it be what ordinary life was like in a certain time period, or what happened surrounding some big event (e.g. what caused the American Revolution to happen, or how the assassination of Julius Caesar was planned, etc.), or some little known information about a well-known historical event (who was involved in the Salem Witch Trials?, etc.). Hope that helps. In summary: fiction that teaches us about history.

  2. Typically it's just a story set in history.
    So like, Great Expectations (Dickens) and such all constitute as historical fiction.
    And, like you said, To Kill a Mocking Bird.
    None of those are central about an event, more about the culture.

    You could try and imitate something like that, talk about the faith of the past or something...I dunno. OOH! The early church. Christian Martyrs. That'd be fun :D

    Or, you could write about a specific event haha

  3. Thanks, guys. I still haven't finished it yet (*looks ashamed*), but I decided to take the easy road and do one set during the Civil War. There are WAY too many of those, IMHO, but anyway, I decided I had to quit thinking about it and start writing. Maybe I'll put it up here sometime. *winks* ;]


'ello, chaps!