A series of rules for writing various sorts of historical fiction has been circulating in the blogsphere. Here’s a link to the original list, created by Alan Fisk and posted on Sarah Cuthbertson’s blog: Sarah’s Bookarama: The All-Purpose Rules for Writing Historical Fiction/Writing Ripping Yarns
The list is quite amusing, as are some of the other lists that followed in its wake, several of which can be seen on the same blog.
As I’ve got time on my hands now that there’s no more figure skating/pratfalling to watch on the Olympics, I’ve come up with Ten More Rules for Writing Historical Fiction:
1. No matter how prevalent the practice at the time or how wealthy or high-born the heroine is, she must be shocked and appalled at the idea of having a marriage arranged for her.
2. If a woman is beautiful and a man handsome, their first sexual encounter must be ecstatic and multi-orgasmic for both, no matter how inexperienced, intoxicated, or tired one or both parties are or how inhospitable the setting is. Any children born of the encounter will be wild and free, like Nature herself.
3. If one party to a sexual encounter is ordinary-looking or plain, the result must be tepid at best and miserable at worst. Any children born of the encounter will be dull or just plain mean.
4. If both parties to a sexual encounter are ordinary-looking or plain, you’ve mistakenly picked up a work of highly experimental literary fiction, which should be read only by Ph.D.’s in English and only then with extreme caution.
5. If an older man marries a beautiful younger woman, he cannot possibly fulfill her sexual needs, a fact of which she must become well aware when a handsome man of her own age appears, thereby triggering Rule 2 above.
6. If Richard III is the hero of the novel, he must have been deeply affected by the deaths of his father and his brother Edmund; however, his siblings, particularly Clarence, must have been virtually untouched emotionally by the same events.
7. Elizabeth Woodville must be grasping, scheming, and totally without heart, even in the rare novel where Richard III is not the hero.
8. When a messenger appears, the recipient must ask, “Have you news?” evidently in the belief that a mud-splattered person riding a lathered horse and waving a letter in his hand might be there merely to make a social call.
9. Midwives must be earthy, warm-hearted founts of wisdom. Physicians must be stiff, cold-hearted quacks.
10. If a female character has visions, she must be psychic. If a male character has visions, he must be psychotic.