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Cliches in Historical Fiction

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat May 25th, 2013, 7:06 pm

[quote=""LadyB""]A major cliche just occurred to me while reading The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson. In one chapter Catherine Parr, married to the king at this point, is inwardly despising all of the attention she's getting from the courtiers, who are watching for any sign she might be pregnant. She's also worrying over the fact that she definitely isn't. However, she spends the whole chapter also inwardly complaining that she is feeling nauseous and dizzy, and I think this is a bit of a tease on the author's part, because in HF whenever a female lead becomes nauseous and dizzy, it usually does mean that she's pregnant (unless the plague is doing the rounds...). Even in an earlier chapter the author uses that trick - Catherine goes about feeling dizzy and sick for a while before realising she's pregnant by her first husband. So I would say that's definitely a major cliche (and probably mentioned before in this thread but I haven't checked...).[/quote]

Oh yeah. One morning with upset stomach and dizziness = pregnant heroine.

Have we mentioned what BB has coined the *As you know, Bob* method of clubbing the reader over the head method? PG is the worst of these, she drove me nuts in Lady of the Rivers reciting everyone's title over and over again. Plus I think I recall Margaret of Anjou announcing to a room full of people who knew her well that her uncle was the king of France. It would be like my boss of fifteen years saying my daughter Lily who is in college, when I damn well know his daughter's name is Lily and she's in college. Duh...

Another thing popping up, and I'm not 100% sure if I'm wrong, but something that drives me nuts is when someone is referred to as say Henry VII or Henry VIII in their lifetime in casual day-to-day conversations. IMHO if an author is concerned that his/her readers aren't familiar enough to know who their characters are, I'd prefer a list at the front and if I need to google say Henry VII to get up to speed I can do so, and not be clubbed over the head with it in the text.
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Tue June 11th, 2013, 6:36 am

in HF whenever a female lead becomes nauseous and dizzy, it usually does mean that she's pregnant (unless the plague is doing the rounds...)
If you went by historical fiction, you'd think no woman was ever nauseous in this history of the world for any other reason than pregnancy.

Plus, it seems as though any time anyone develops a sniffle in HF, it's a harbinger of death. No one ever caught a cold before the 20th century? Or had hayfever? (Though it's true, evidently, that allergies are far more prevalent in today's world than they were even 50 years ago.)
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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Tue June 11th, 2013, 8:26 am

They do the old nausea/fainting thing being a sign of pregnancy in a lot of contemporary shows too.

And in TV adaptations of historicals as soon as anyone coughs - yes it's the dreaded consumption again - one TV critic called it "costume drama cough".
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Post by fljustice » Wed June 12th, 2013, 3:27 pm

[quote=""Madeleine""]And in TV adaptations of historicals as soon as anyone coughs - yes it's the dreaded consumption again - one TV critic called it "costume drama cough".[/quote]

I love that trope! When ever some one coughs in historicals, my husband and I high five and intone, "She's toast!"
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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Wed June 12th, 2013, 3:54 pm

[quote=""fljustice""]I love that trope! When ever some one coughs in historicals, my husband and I high five and intone, "She's toast!"[/quote]

My mum and I do that too! ;) :D
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Wed June 12th, 2013, 6:15 pm

[quote=""fljustice""]I love that trope! When ever some one coughs in historicals, my husband and I high five and intone, "She's toast!"[/quote]

Always good of offing an unwanted husband.
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princess
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Post by princess » Wed June 12th, 2013, 8:54 pm

Just while Jamie Fraser is in my mind - Scottish men (or people in general) usually have hair of a "red" hue :)
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Post by Kat » Mon June 24th, 2013, 11:14 am

The unwanted marriage is pretty overdone. Almost as much as falling in love with the guy she's promised to after meeting him in accidental circumstances. That one goes back to the musical Camelot and probably before.

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Post by boswellbaxter » Mon July 1st, 2013, 3:02 am

If anyone wants to hear the Historical Novel Society panel discussion related to this thread, it's available on CD or MP3 here (the typo is that of the recording company, not mine):

http://vwtapes.com/clichsinhfandhowtoavoidthemmp3.aspx
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Post by EC2 » Mon July 1st, 2013, 12:28 pm

Interesting that they're being sold when usually this sort of material is free. The individual lectures and the panels discussions on historical fact and fiction at the Institute of Historical Research at the University of Westminster for example, were and still are all available free of charge. I can see that delegates had paid to attend the conference and listen in, so you could argue that folk wanting to listen outside should pay a fee, but I do wonder how many takers there will be.
Notwithstanding, I hope the panel went well Susan.
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