YA Genre 101: Historical Fiction


I was talking to someone at work recently about historical fiction and she wanted to know if that meant the story was about an event that happened in history.  I tried to explain it was a yes and no answer.

Historical fiction is a novel set among actual historical events or one that is written to display a certain period of time.  The story itself doesn’t have to be specifically about that one particular event, let’s say, what made the Titanic sink, but more about the people affected by its sinking.

The setting is the most important part of historical fiction since the story takes place surrounding an actual event in history.  The information about the time period and place must be accurate, authentic, or both. Tons of research is involved so the author has a working knowledge of how people lived, what ate and wore, what sort of homes they lived in, etc.

Characters may be real or fictional or a combination of both.  No matter what, they must remain true to the time frame.

The plot must document historical events.  Even though your story is fictional, it needs to make sense and it must have a solution to a problem in the end.  If the plot is fictional, then it must remain true to the historical time and place.   In other words, you could write about a fictional couple who fall in love in 1830’s London.  While the couple is fictional, the surroundings need to be authentic down to the hair pins the women wore.

The dialogue must be authentic to the time period.  Reading books and articles from the time you’re writing about will assist in making sure your character’s speech is perfected.

Descriptions in historical fiction tend to be very vivid.  The author must convey a sense of time so readers who are unfamiliar with the historical events can experience as if they were in the midst of it.

Some of my favorite YA historical novels include: