Saturday, 29 March 2008

Rules for Writing Medieval Fiction

Rules for Writing Medieval Fiction
By Elizabeth Chadwick

1. The Saxons who are the bad guys of the Arthurian stories magically turn into good guys in 1066 when the nasty Normans invade. Then they turn into the English and become bad guys again.

2. The Scots, kilted up as Mel Gibson lookalikes, can do no wrong.

3. King John is always a bad ruler.

4. In any novel prior to 1970, Richard III is an evil child-murdering hunchback. Post-1970, he turns into a wonderful guy, completely innocent of the murder of his nephews and with a back as straight as a ramrod. Henry VII takes over as the bad guy.

5. All heroines have thick waves of glorious hair that tumble to their hips. The more unruly they are, the curlier their tresses tend to be. Frequently those tresses will be
a stupendous shade of auburn.

6. At least once in any novel the hero will be wounded and the heroine, a skilled herbwife, will be called upon to tend him.

7. The villain of the piece or his henchman will frequently have disgusting table manners and disfiguring scars.

8. The hero is never bald or a serf – unless the novel is a work of literary fiction, in which case the latter is a necessity. The hero of the first statement is likely to parade around in his armour even when relaxing at home and will wear his sword as a matter of course.

9. In a certain type of novel of the period, the huge size of the hero’s sword is only outdone by the size of the object between his legs – his magnificent coal-black or pure white stallion (ahem!)

10. No hero is ever called Etheldred, Cuthbert, Archibald or Baldric. No heroine is ever called Hegelina, Frideswide, Euphemia or Hildegarde. In certain works aforementioned at point 9, the hero will be called Blade, Hawke, Addis or Bryce while the heroine will be named Adrienne, Rainna, Mellyora (I kid you not!) or Elissa. Authors will often have very similar stage names to those of the heroine and their work will be given 4 stars by Romantic Times.

A Place Beyond Courage

Elizabeth Chadwick is the author of many fine historical novels set in the Medieval era, the latest of which is A Place Beyond Courage (2007)which features John Marshal, father of William Marshal, about whom she has published two novels, The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. She says: “I put a brutal hunting scene in my first novel The Wild Hunt. I’ve not been as graphic since. My characters still go hunting, but in a more understated way. I have considered being subversive and writing an Arthurian novel from the poor, maligned Anglo-Saxons’ viewpoint, but that’s still on a back burner. At least these days the heroines DO get pregnant. When I was in my teens and early twenties, you’d have thought they were all on the Pill, the number of frolics they had without suffering the consequences!” Elizabeth Chadwick's blog is Living the History.

1 comment:

wormauld said...

dear Sarah,
I've just found your wonderful blog via Random jottings. I'm wormauld. alife in books and music.However, i live down the road from you and we have so much in common. It would be lovely to meet once I'm back from Hongkong on 17th. I live in Horley but Crawley would be easy for us both to reach. Your Chadwick writing hist fic made me laugh. I don't find her books authentic although they are fun.The reason for this is largely the names. I think her history is accurate.what do you think.Daphne