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What Does a Historical Fiction Author Do?

By Ray Hawk
Updated May 17, 2024
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A historical fiction author is a writer who creates stories based on past eras in human history, and possibly bases such stories on historical figures from the past as well. The author strives to achieve a level of authenticity with the work that reflects the true nature of the period. Where a historical figure is included, however, speculation and embellishment of the character is usually done to give the story more entertainment value. Historical fiction can be an exceptionally difficult area of literature in which to work, as it requires much research, and often there is not good evidence to back up the nature of day-to-day life and activities of characters from the past.

There are some fundamental differences to working in this writing genre that the historical fiction author prepares for as he or she writes. The main topic that the writer must focus on is how people in the era in which he or she is writing about lived and thought, as well as how they talked. Language will be different, but so will customs and values that are based on societies where there was greater poverty, limited travel outside one's village, and more primitive views about the world as a whole. The historical fiction author has to take into account that most of the technology of the modern world will not exist, as well as its side effects, from pollution to the danger of invasion from distant lands or cures for most diseases. This can make the values of characters from the past far more innocent and noble, as well as cruel and base in their actions than would would be typical for modern-day characters.

Novels and stories containing historical fiction remain an enduring field of authorship and a popular genre for readers, as many people possess a deep curiosity about how human beings lived in past eras. The historical fiction author may choose to write in the field both for purposes of self-education and in an attempt to escape from present-day paradigms and stereotypes about how characters should interact. There is also the opportunity to explore different value and belief systems that were held by people in the past, and perhaps gain a better understanding of how the world came to be the way it is today by their actions.

A limitation of fiction writing, in general, is that so many ideas have already been explored in numerous ways, making originality harder and harder to come by. This includes plot lines and character relationships in stories, as well as finding unique settings in which to place characters. A historical fiction author can have an advantage over contemporary writers in this regard, as many eras of history have not been extensively written about in fiction. In contrast to this fact, many eras of history have been researched scientifically, from a non-fiction point of view, and this provides for a good foundation and starting point to build a story upon for the historical fiction author.

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