I don’t consider myself an expert on historical fiction, but I have learned a few things in the five years I’ve spent writing a novel set in sixteenth-century Europe.
That’s a lie. I’m still confused. This will probably end up as more of a rant than advice. Here goes–
A Good Percentage of People Don’t Know What a Baldric Is
Gawwsshh. Don’t you people spend hours of your weekend sitting at home researching obscure accessories?! Have you never read The Three Musketeers? Ugh. Peasants.
My Character Is Covered in Dirt and Blood but He Can’t Take a Bath Because That Would Be Historically Inaccurate
This is the point where I go stand in the shower and cry for all the beautiful people who lived under layers of dirt and grime because bathing regularly was un-Catholic.
Just… just take this bar of soap… from me to you…
My Character Doesn’t Feel Well. Shall We Visit a Doctor?
*Holds off storm of leeches, saws, opium, and other abstract medical instruments and medicines* NO. How about let’s just… pour a little balsam on that severed arm. It’ll feel better in a few days. No need to get “professional” help.
Glass Cost So Much That Rich People Took Their Windows with Them on Trips
This. This is one of the perks of historical fiction. I just want to hug this fact and have a chapter in my book dedicated solely to rich people taking their windows out and giving dirty looks to anyone who so much as looked at their precious glass.
Oh, come on. This is a thriller. You really expect me to pause and talk about the poor people who used oiled paper as windows?
Wait. No. That’s the glass thing again. I’m okay with talking about that. *Gives haughty look to all the peasants who don’t have glass*
The Frustration of Not Being Able to Quote Shakespeare
If I’d just set the novel thirty years later…
But Still Stealing Shakespearean Insults
*Exit, pusued by a bear*
Putting Off Writing a Scene Because You Still Don’t Know When Doorknobs Were Invented
Why. Why did I struggle so much with this. Doorknobs and locks and roofs and architecture and I don’t know anything–
Ya know what? Let’s just take that door away. Nobody needs to know about my doorknob struggle.
Being Angry That People Didn’t Wear Coats
But then realizing that cloaks are ten billion times hotter. Seriously. Cloaks and capes.
Still Loving Your Time Period Despite All Its Shortcomings
Because if it’s good enough for your characters, it’s good enough for you. I love you, 1521 Anno Domini.
Although you still quite literally stink.