Some time ago, 2015 to be exact, I wrote a post showing the varieties of historical fiction by using a few diagrams. As I said in that earlier post, “it is clear that this highly popular genre comes in a multitude of flavours. The obvious flavours concern time period, location and sub-genre such as mystery, saga or romance, but it seems that other, perhaps more subtle, variations distinguish historical fiction for readers.”
In that post, I proposed variations based on character type, historical density, and adherence to factual events.
=> Character type: Is the novel concerned with ordinary people or with famous historical figures?
=> Historical density: How much history is incorporated into the novel?
=> Adherence to factual events: How closely does the plot depend on factual events?
David Mitchell, author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Groot, offer this perspective: “Perhaps this is the paradox that beats inside historical fiction’s rib cage: the “historical” half demands fidelity to the past, while the “fiction” half requires infidelity – people must be dreamt up, their acts fabricated and the lies of art must be told.”
In a slightly later post, I also had a look at what I called the biography continuum, with one end highly focused the facts of a character’s life and the other end representing more of a fictionalized biography.
Three questions to consider:
- Where do you prefer to be on these continuums in terms of your reading? Of course, many of us enjoy stories from all parts.
- If you are also a writer, where on these continuums do you prefer to situate your novels?
- Do you have some favourite examples from these continuums to share?
As for me, to date my novels have focused on fictional characters with a smattering of minor characters who are real. However, I have toyed with the idea of writing a fictionalized biography. And for my reading, while I appreciate novels from every part of these continuums, I have a preference for stories that incorporate lots of factual events and a good dose of real history.
PS – those who are long-time readers of this blog will know that I love using diagrams to illustrate a topic. Turns out I’ve built more than 200 of them. Who knew?
FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.