What Is Historical Fiction?

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Historical fiction is more than a story set in the past, says Eastern Illinois University professor Sarah Johnson, author of two books on the genre. Engaging historical fiction relies on an author's understanding of a time and place in history, combined with good story telling.

Using History

  • Extensive research and historical accuracy support the tales in historical fiction. Scott O'Dell's Newbury Award winning book, "Island of the Blue Dolphins" is often cited as an example of the genre. Published in 1960, O'Dell based his book on the true story of “The Lone Woman of San Nicolas,” a Native American woman found on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California in 1853. While the event was real, O’Dell imagined the tale of her 18 years of life alone in the Channel Islands.

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