You are here:

Writing Books/Historical characters


When writing historical fiction do you use locations and time period but make up characters? If you were to retell an event from history and expand with great liberties would you change the names of the historical figures? Using the event as just a framework and make up everything else? Thanks.

There are no hard and fast rules.
You could do anything.

But the usual practice is either
1) Keep historical events and historical characters historically correct and focus on fictional figures whose personal lives become the story (with them being involved in the events and one way or another interacting with the historical figures). cf. War and Peace, and Herman Wouk's Winds of War series

2)Keep the historical events and characters deep in the background -- occasionally noted in conversation and maybe having indirect effect on the characters' lives. The events of the novel then are all invented, with invented characters, but consistent with and characteristic of the times. cf. Jane Austen's novels, which take place while the Napoleonnic Wars are going on, but with those events very rarely alluded to.

But there is nothing stopping you from writing alternative history or fantasy history, where you deliberately change the names and events. cf. The Difference Engine by Gibson

Good luck.

Richard Seltzer,,

Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Richard Seltzer


I prefer questions that directly relate to my current areas of interest: historical works and historical fiction dealing with Russia and Ethiopia around 1900.


Author of fiction:
The Name of Hero, historical novel (Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin)
The Lizard of Oz, fantasy (B&R Samizdat)
Also nonfiction:
The AltaVista Search Revolution (Osborne/McGraw-Hill)
Shop Online the Lazy Way (Macillan)

See my Web site
for complete novels and short stories by me, as well as resources for

©2017 All rights reserved.