Real people in fiction
by colin leonard
Can you use real historical people in historical fiction?
Yes, historical fiction is often based on real people who lived during the time the novel is set. I can't comment on the legal aspect of using real characters, a question I'm often asked about, but that is part of the service a good publisher provides--the publisher checks facts and legal issues to protect you, and helps to resolve legal issues when they arise.
My novel, Madame Zee, is based on the real life mistress of the 1920s cult leader The Brother, XIII. I combined fact and fiction to use information I found in my research, but also to create a fictional past for Madame Zee, about whom little information exists.
Read more about my novel Madame Zee
If you want to write historical fiction, it is a good idea to read a lot of it first. In that way you will see how other authors have used the historical information.
See below for a couple of novels that are based on true stories and use real historical people:
I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince