Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing


History vs. Historical Fiction


One comment I hear frequently when I mention writing historical fiction is, “Oh, I wouldn’t like that. I don’t like history.”

Actually, neither do I. Although if you checked my browser and saw how many countless hours a year I spend researching different historical facts and events, you wouldn’t come to that conclusion. But I was always one, that if a history class was optional, I was not taking it.

Some may think its splitting hairs, but while history and historical fiction are related, they are not the same thing. Borrowing two quotes from Cindy Vallor’s site, Thistles & Pirates, these sum it up better than I can say it.

History and historical fiction are necessarily not the same thing. The purpose of history is to narrate events as accurately as one can. The purpose of historical fiction is to enable a reader through the perspective of characters in the story to feel that she or he is present at the events. Such a goal obviously requires some modification of the events. –Andrew M. Greeley

History strives for reality, for what is provable, documentable. Historical fiction should strive for the story that underlies reality and thus become an imagined reality. — David Nevin in A Note on Methods and Sources in 1812

While we’re speaking of historical fiction, if you’re interested in this genre, you’ll want to check out Thistles & Pirates. Vallor links to over a hundred articles about historical fiction. There are so many on that list that I’d like to read. I bookmarked her page so I can go back and read more articles that intrigue me. Her page is a wealth of information.

Happy history hunting!


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