Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Is Historical Fiction?

by Susan F. Craft

This is my favorite historical ever!
Historical fiction presents readers with a story that takes place during a specific period or significant event in history. It often presents actual events from the point of view of fictional people living in that era, but with actual historical people making appearances. Works in this genre often portray the manners and social conditions of the persons or times presented in the story, with attention paid to period detail. In historical fiction, setting and events drive the story.

Historical Fiction by Year or Time Period

This is one of my favorite novels. It
won 3 Christy Awards this year (2014).
Historical Fiction by Period Name (list taken from Historical Novel Society)
American Revolution
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Greece
Ancient Rome
Ancient World (Other)
Arthurian (ca 450-600)
Colonial America
Early Medieval (to 1337)
Early United States
English Civil War
French Revolution
Gilded Age
Great Depression
Jazz Age
Late Medieval (1338 to 1485)
Regency (1811 to 1820)
US Civil War
Victorian (1837-1901)

Some of the Major Categories of Historical Fiction
  • Alternate Historicals explore how history may have happened differently.
Another favorite novel!
  • Biblical Novels can be set with actual people, places, or events from the Bible; can be set in a different time period but the characters or events are based on scripture; or can depict an era of history from the Bible, although the characters may not be biblical.
  • Historical Fantasy Novels mix history with fantasy.
  • Historical Mysteries are a cross between historical fiction and mystery.
  • Historical Thrillers or Suspense put their heroes in danger.
  • Literary Historical Novels examine contemporary themes in lyrical or dense language.
  • Multi-Period Epics illustrate how specific places change over centuries.
  • Traditional Historical Novels emphasize a straightforward and historically accurate plot.
  • Romantic Historical Novels are love stories set in history; the relationship or romance drives the story. 
  • Sagas follow families or groups of people over time, usually generations.
  • Speculative fiction takes readers to the places between the realm of the seen and the unseen; contain angels, demons, visions, dreams, prophecies, vampires, monsters, and other supernatural phenomena.
  • Time-Travel Novels take their characters between epochs/time periods.
  • Western Historical Novels are set in the American West.

Word Count for Fiction
Microfiction—up to 100 words
Flash Fiction—100-1,000 (magazine article)
Short Story1,000-7,500
Novellette7,500-20,000 (difficult to sell to publishers)
Novella20,000-50,000 (perfect for e-publishing)
Novel50,000-110,000 (most publishers want a minimum of 70,000; over                                                    110,000 would give them pain)
Epics and Sequels—over 110,000 (trilogies) 

Susan F. Craft authored the SIBA Award-winning Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile. The two sequels to The Chamomile, entitled Laurel and Cassia will be released January 12, 2015, and September 14, 2015, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.  She is represented by Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency.


  1. Susan, this is an excellent article! I am right now printing it out for my file. Thank you for
    compiling all this great information and helping us historical writers (or at least wannabees!).
    Hugs, Elva Cobb Martin, Pressident, South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers.

  2. Susan, forgot to tell you, I am also tweeting this article and sharingit on Facebook. I hope many of our other writers will do the same and spread it far and wide.
    Elva Cobb Matin

    1. Thanks so much, Elva. I'm such a history nerd, I get excited when people like you get excited about writing historicals and desire to write them well.

  3. Replies
    1. I love history and enjoyed writing this post. My seventh grade South Carolina History teacher, Ms. Lucia Daniel, brought history to life for me. She passed away many years ago, but I went to the service and found many of her students there.

  4. Super article. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You're welcome, Vie. I enjoyed writing and researching for it. I have to admit, I love researching more than writing. In the past, before my children became adults, I missed cooking meals for my family on many Saturdays when I would get caught up in a library. Thank goodness, they understood my passion. Especially my husband, who made lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Hugs go out to spouses of writers. (had to delete my other comment because it had too many typos :-))

  5. Great work, Susan. The cover of Ben-Hur caught my attention. It is one of my all time favorites. Thanks. I'm sharing it on FB

    1. Thank you, Janet. I like the movie, too, and watch it whenever it's on TV.

    2. I feel the same way about the movie. It never gets old. The spiritual lesson of not becoming what you hate is never lost on me.