What is historical novel? characteristics of historical fiction?
With its characters often being fictional, a historical novel,with its narrative set against a background of real conflicts and issues in time, often elicits interest from a reader who would normally not pay much attention to the mere recordings of historical fact that form the background for the narratives. Thus, as a secondary benefit, the reader of a historical novel learns much about a historical era.
So, historical novels are novels that both entertain and instruct. For instance, a classic novel such as A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens gives a reader a history of the cruelty and bloodshed of not only the French Revolution, but also the age of highwaymen and grave robbers in England. The Irving Stone novel, The Origin, provides a delightful narrative about Charles Darwin the man, along with his influence upon science.
A historical novel is a made up story (fiction) with many historical facts incorporated into the book.
An example of a historical novel is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. This story is obviously fiction but the book contains a lot historical data that was actually true. It has a lot of detail about his life as a child, his upbringing, his ventures into law and politics, and eventually his presidency.
Authors who write historical novels should be given a lot of credit because they spend a great deal of time researching a topic to put real events into the book.
There is a society you can join if you like historical novels. The Historical Novel Society is a society that promotes historical novels. They publish reviews of books and hold conferences. It is a great resource.
A historical novel is often based on true facts of history but it may not embody true characters from history, although it can have parts of true characters and situations.
A couple of examples of historical writing which use real live characters are The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter. Both representing Puritan times, these pieces are heavily based on primary source documents that prove their words to be fairly accurate.
Historical fiction is just that... fiction. Meaning not true, these works are like The Red Badge of Courage, which depicts the life of a soldier in the Civil War, but doesn't necessarily follow directly the lives of specific real people.