Do you like to study history? Sure, all those dates can get confusing, but isn’t it interesting when you really dive down deep into the stories of the people that were involved in important events in the past?

Some kids don’t even realize how much they like history until they see history displayed in a new way. For example, have you ever seen the movie Titanic? Yes, it’s a great movie, but it’s based upon an even more interesting real historic event.

When we look back at the past with the help of books and movies, we have to be careful to be aware of what’s true and what’s made-up. Sometimes this is easy when we’re reading a book we got from the library. All we need to do is figure out whether the book came from the fiction or nonfiction section.

Fiction books are mostly made-up stories. They can certainly have elements of truth in them, but they don’t claim to be a true, factual account of a particular person or event.

Nonfiction books, on the other hand, do claim to be truthful, factual accounts of actual persons and events. Some common types of nonfiction works you may be familiar with include essays, journals, diaries, documentaries, biographies and textbooks.

When it comes to learning about history, we want to be sure to rely as much as possible on works of nonfiction. The more true and accurate facts we can assemble, the better we will be able to understand the people and events of the past.

Some authors try to give us the best of both worlds by writing historical fiction. Historical fiction features characters and events that take place in the past. The people, times and places featured in works of historical fiction are often real.

Many of the scenes in historical fiction may be based almost-entirely upon true, factual accounts of past events. However, authors of historical fiction use these truths as a basis for embellishing their stories with fictional accounts of other events that could or might have occurred.

In this way, authors of historical fiction bring the past to life with stories that are interesting and move with the pace of a modern bestseller, while being grounded — at least partly — in the truths of the past.

If you’re WONDERing why these authors don’t base their stories entirely on factual accounts, one answer is that authors cannot always find accurate, truthful accounts of every historical event that they research. Sometimes there are gaps in the historical records. Authors of historical fiction often fill in these gaps to the best of their ability with scenes that could have happened based upon what they do know about the actual events.

27 Join the Discussion

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  1. No! :( I was wrong again. Today’s wonder of the day is not about telling the truth. However, I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about fire.

    TJ

    • Happy Thursday, TJ! We just wanted you to know that we are really excited you chose to spend part of your summer learning new things with us in Wonderopolis each day! We really like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder! :-)

    • It’s great to hear from you, Rahul! We think it’s really cool that you and TJ both guessed that tomorrow’s Wonder might be about fire! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today! :-)

  2. A great wonder. I am teaching social studies this year and plan on using historical fictional a way to capture students’ interest about the topic. Unfortunately, many students think social studies can be “boring” when using just a text book. I hope to bring SS alive. I love the trailer with so many great HF book choices.

    • Hello, Ms. K! Thank you so much for your WONDERful comment! We think history and social studies can be SUPER WONDEROUS! Here is a whole category of amazing Wonders of the Day® that we know your students will enjoy: http://wonderopolis.org/category/social-studies/.

      Thank you for WONDERing about the world around you and also for inspiring others to WONDER, too! We think you ROCK! :-)

  3. I can’t wait to utilize today’s post in my 8th Language Arts class. Quite a few of the titles in the video are novels we offer as book titles for literature circles! And, this will be nice to share with the kids. Thanks so much!
    Ann Marie Smith

    • We’re super excited to receive your comment today, Ann Marie! Thank you for being an amazing Wonder Friend, for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for inspiring your students to WONDER! YOU ROCK! :-)

    • Thanks so much for letting us know you liked today’s Wonder and also what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, Emily! We think you are an AMAZING Wonder Friend! :-)

  4. Hi! That WONDER was so cool today because in school we have been learning about Historical Fiction, Fiction, and Non-Fiction. But reading is not my favorite subject in school. But when you read on WONDERopolis, it’s so much FUN!! I’m gonna start doing this everyday because I just love it! Thanks for sharing that WONDERful story with me!!

    • Your comment is SO WONDERful, Sharky! Thank you for sharing your personal connection to today’s Wonder and that you are learning about Historical Fiction, Fiction and Nonfiction in school! We’re super glad to hear that you think learning in Wonderopolis is FUN! We think it’s a lot of FUN, too! Have a GREAT day! :-)

  5. One of my classmates came up with this topic and we put it on twitter. My old language arts teacher was right you did listen to what we said. That topic is really interesting. :D

    • Raygene, we love that you and your classmates are WONDERing about different types of books. Thanks for sharing how much you liked the Wonder of the Day®! :)

  6. I sometimes love to read books, but the ones with pictures and short paragraphs. The books I like to read at school are magic treehouse books. It’s fiction, but it has real facts about things in real life. :-D

    • Carlos, we love how often you’ve been WONDERing about books, animals and mammals! Thank you for sharing your WONDERful comments with us! :)

  7. I like the wonders very much. Everyday I am expecting another wonder on this website. If possible, would you please present more wonders?

    • We love your WONDERful curiosity, James, and are so happy to know you like the Wonder of the Day®! Each day, you can learn and WONDER with us about a new topic or idea. Thanks for being a great WONDER Friend! :)

  8. Sorry this is posted late. I was doing Taekwondo (similar to Karate) and on one of my tests to pass to the next belt I broke a board!

    • WOW, Julie, you must have practiced those Taekwondo moves for quite some time! We hope you keep up the hard work and continue to share your own Wonders with us! :)

  9. Hi Wonderopolis, when I asked this question in class we were reading about a lady who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The book had dialog and I was wondering since they don’t know what the actual characters said, what is the line between fiction and non-fiction? So my teacher submitted my question to you. Thank you for answering my question.
    :)

    • Sean, we are SUPER happy to Wonder with you! We love your enthusiasm for reading and thinking outside the box, too! Keep up the great work– we are looking forward to WONDERing with you and your classmates! Have a GREAT day! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • When does nonfiction become fiction?
  • What is historical fiction?
  • Can you write historical fiction?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to write your own historical fiction short story? Choose an historical event that you’ve studied recently in school. Pick a character or two and write a brief story about something that could have happened.

Remember: this is historical fiction. Your story should be based partly on truth (nonfiction), but you can also take some liberty in making up a few things that could plausibly have happened (fiction).

Try to illuminate the event or the characters you choose to show your reader a different side than the one they might already know about. For example, if you recently studied the Boston Tea Party, you might be able to write a story about how the people who took part planned the event. Or you could write a story about what happened after they threw the tea overboard and came back to shore.

If you want to share your story with your Wonder Friends, feel free to post it on Facebook. We’d love to read what you write!

Still Wondering

In ReadWriteThink’s Diagram It! Identifying, Comparing, and Writing About Nonfiction Texts lesson, children compare the traits of fact and fiction by using a Venn diagram to compare fiction and nonfiction books.

Wonder Categories/Tags

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is burning bright!

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