Tuesday, May 1, 2012
How to write a Medieval Novel: a practical guide no. 1
The Dark Ages?! Not at all. As I'm doing all this again, I thought I would list the things I've found useful in creating a convincing medieval setting. Richard Fletcher is very good in The Barbarian Conversions, in teasing the religious accounts of conversions, where Saint A turned up at pagan site Z, chopped down their sacred oak, and then the people were amazed and accepted Christ. He asks the kind of questions any serious writer should ask: what exactly did that mean? How well did people understand what they were accepting. How much did older beliefs survive and continue in different forms. I find it's always good to remember that just because people lived in a less enlightened age, they were not necessarily any more or less daft than people now. And in many ways their concerns might prove surprisingly similar to worries now. Take the Anglo Saxon charms, for example. Often they say put a poultice on and say a certain prayer or charm three times. Now the simple reading would be that they believed in the power of mystical charms. Or - and perhaps a more practical and interesting explanation is that the repeating the charm five times took a certain and appropriate amount of time. Something of an ancient egg charmer.