What is it? HISTORICAL FICTION is a genre in literature where the story is written to depict a certain era in history. The setting is specific to a certain time period or historical event. A good writer can use the five senses to give us a feel of the event. Using clues from that genre, a reader should be able to figure out what the event is, where the story is taking place, and even the event that is being described. For instance, I will write a paragraph of a story and you let me know if you know what I am talking about.
My neighbors were walking all over Montgomery, Alabama and I was walking too. My feet hurt. I have been walking for months. Everyone knows the rules, but because a grown-up broke it, this is the result. A gazillion of thoughts raced through my head like horses at a racetrack. So why do children have to follow the rules? Why don’t grown-ups do the same? Why am I being punished when I followed the rules?
If someone didn’t break the rules then I wouldn’t be walking three miles to school and three miles back each day. But someone broke it. And this was my punishment. Walking. Day in and day out. Three miles in the morning. Three miles in the evening.
Mrs. Williams interrupted my thoughts. “Good morning, Ruby Jean. Remember, we still walking today.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, smiling. I did not want to walk. The air was chilly and damp. Christmas was in a few weeks and Papa Frank said, “We trying to get the Mayor to treat us with dignity.”
What made us walk? It all started with the arrest of our neighbor. A hard working African-American woman. Kind. Quiet. She didn’t mess with anyone, and no one messed with her.
This is an event in American history. Can you, the reader, figure out what is going on here? Who is the neighbor in question? I clearly stated where this happened.
HISTORICAL FICTION books — whether they are picture books , Chapter Books , Middle Grade , Young Adult , or novels — may have characters who are either imaginary or who actually lived during the time period/era. Settings also may be real or imaginary, but we still want it to be authentic.
The plot events may be documented historical events or they may be fictional.(If you are creating fictional events please be authentic to the era. If the setting is the 1950’s, no cell phone, computer, internet, slang language like dude, son, etc.) If they are fictional, it means that the author created the events for the telling of the story. The fictional characters, settings, and plot events must be portrayed authentically as if they actually could have happened.
If you want to get a true understanding of this genre, whether you are writing for children or adults, read JOHNNY TREMAIN. According to Read Write Think, “A classic example of HISTORICAL FICTION is Johnny Tremain , a 1944 Newbery Medal book. The primary setting is Boston in 1773. The book contains both real and fictional characters, real and fictional settings, and real and fictional events. The book is successful because of author Esther Forbes’s extensive historical research and knowledge of the time period and her skillful blending of history and fiction into a believable story.”