Weaving in Historical Elements
I love writing all kinds of genres and sub-genres of romance, including stories based in different time periods. Creating characters that feel “real” to a reader is an art. Establishing a believable setting for those characters, with conflicts also believable for the period, is a challenge. When a writer manages to pull it all together, the story can be a special gift to the readers. And when readers and reviewers appreciate the author’s hard work that is a gift to the author.
I really enjoyed writing my three medieval stories (Their Lady Gloriana, Maggie Mine, and its sequel The Great Scottish Devil) but they were a trial at times. The medieval period has always attracted me. I admit that the movies involving such a hard time and the romances that greatly soften the realities of living back then are what I enjoy. And I admit that I would never have wanted to live in those difficult days. But I write fiction and the worlds I create are acceptable to me and to my readers.
So what kind of historical elements are acceptable and make a story believable and enjoyable? A reader doesn’t want to read about some of the true hardships knights faced. She wants to read and visualize in her mind the powerful, handsome, buff knight riding proudly on his destrier and leading his men to battle or to whatever the story involves. She doesn’t want to know that many of the armored knights fell off their horses, couldn’t get up without assistance, and that a lot of them drowned in creeks and rivers because of the bulky armor. What readers want and rightly expect are simple details that give the sense of the setting and character particulars for the period.
The following are some setting examples from The Great Scottish Devil:
For a second he simply looked at her, struggling to draw in yet another breath. Slowly, he turned his head and she watched him raise his face to the skies laden with heavy gray clouds, appearing to study them. He shivered against the air chilled this mid-August morn. Then he looked around at their surroundings, at the grassy area on this northern slope of the Grampian Mountains, at the spattering of low shrubs, birches, and patches of purple heather. He’d been so determined to cross over these highest mountains in Scotland as quickly as possible. He’d seemed oddly anxious to head toward the villages in the Highlands they visited as tinkers this time of year. It should have taken them longer to ride. She’d wondered what had driven him so hard this trip.
As he rode with Sir Douglas at his side down the final slope of the Grampian Mountains, Brodie breathed a sigh of relief. The fifty men who traveled with them were a ways behind. Yet the sounds of so many hooves, so many heavily breathing horses carried to him even from this distance.
The following are some character details from The Great Scottish Devil:
He squinted at the sudden brightness as the sun rested high in the sky. The swirling gray clouds of the early morn had drifted away and now it was hotter. Sweat trickled down his back beneath his shirt. A warm breeze passed over him, fluttering the shoulder-length hair that he should have tied back.
His thoughts wandered to Urquhart and what awaited him there: many people who would be disappointed that he returned still without his memories. Still, they could not be any more disappointed than he. His head throbbed with the now familiar headache that plagued him whenever he tried to think about his past. He reached up to rub his forehead and caught sight of a tinker’s wagon at the foot of the hill they were going down.
The boy blinked and tears sparkled in his eyes. Slender shoulders shuddered beneath the dirt-dusted white shirt, and then straightened. A pouty lower lip trembled for but an instant. Then anger spread across a face that appeared too delicate for even a young boy.
“I’m not a thief!” the boy protested. He had the gall to glower at Brodie, to continue holding the ridiculously small weapon out in defense.
“’Tis a lass!” Douglas said in shock.
Brodie, too, had surmised that from the “boy’s” all-too-feminine voice, more so when the “boy’s” chest had thrust out in anger. There was no mistaking the swell of plump breasts shoving against the front of the shirt. It took him a second to come to terms with the surprising discover; it took another second to get beyond his surprise and back to his fury.
A good historical story will also include a limited amount of language used at the time. It is important to weave in certain terms that might have been used, a sense of the uniqueness of expressions common to the time period, and maybe a hint of an accent. But it is also important not to overdue all of this. Reading oddly spelled words or being constantly bombarded with unfamiliar language can frustrate a reader and pull them from a story. The key is to give only a flavor of the various elements of the historical period.
The following are some language details from The Great Scottish Devil:
To his annoyance, Douglas chuckled behind him. “I dinna think the lass has seen a mon in a kilt ‘ere. Or what a mon doesna wear under a kilt.” He chuckled again.
Disgusted, Brodie strode toward the lass, who was now scooting back toward the wagon, still brandishing the useless dirk. He pointed with his sword at the clearly dead man. “If ye killed him, ye will die here as well.”
Book Title: The Great Scottish Devil
Author: Starla Kaye
Genre: Medieval Romance
Publisher: Blushing Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
Format: eBook, Kindle, Nook