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Cliches in Historical Fiction

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
Carla
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Post by Carla » Mon March 18th, 2013, 10:05 pm

[quote=""MLE""]I don't know about the 'hero in bed with a fever' trope, but I wouldn't hesitate to use one where the protagonist was dying of hypothermia. The only thing to do if there is no other way to warm them is to strip them down and stuff them in a sleeping bag (or whatever the period equivalent would be) with another warm body, as nearly naked as possible, so that there is maximum skin-to-skin contact. And then you keep turning both like a rotisserie.

Oddly enough, I've never actually read that one. But I have used the technique in the wilderness. It can be a lifesaver.

When that is explained in mountain medicine classes, EVERYBODY comes up with the same thought. Although having done that with my spouse, I can tell you that when you are that cold, sex is the last thing on your mind.

At least until things warm up. ;) [/quote]

I've used that one in fiction with a protagonist at risk of dying from exhaustion and hypothermia, though the helpful companion wasn't the heroine (mind you, at least it wasn't the dog).

I've also seen a variation of it somewhere, in a short story I think, in which a girl is being escorted to another village by a young priest. They take a liking to one another, but the young priest is terribly shy and the girl knows he won't pluck up the courage to ask her to marry him and she can't ask him. On the last stage of the journey they have to camp overnight in a cabin in the forest - I think the setting is Siberia, or northern Scandinavia - and when they arrive they find they have no tinderbox to light a fire. So to stay alive through the night they keep warm by 'bundling', i.e. rolling up together wrapped in blankets (still fully dressed). In the morning the girl tells the young priest that he mustn't ever tell anyone they have bundled together as it will ruin her reputation. Whereupon the young priest promptly asks her to marry him, and the girl, of course, is delighted to accept. The twist in the tale is that as soon as the young priest is out of sight (they only have one horse between them, so they are travelling ride-and-tie and it's his turn to ride first), the girl fishes the tinderbox out of her pack and hurls it into the forest.
I have no idea of the title and author, which is a pity because it was rather a good little story.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Mon March 18th, 2013, 11:02 pm

[quote=""MLE""]I don't know about the 'hero in bed with a fever' trope, but I wouldn't hesitate to use one where the protagonist was dying of hypothermia. The only thing to do if there is no other way to warm them is to strip them down and stuff them in a sleeping bag (or whatever the period equivalent would be) with another warm body, as nearly naked as possible, so that there is maximum skin-to-skin contact. And then you keep turning both like a rotisserie.

Oddly enough, I've never actually read that one. But I have used the technique in the wilderness. It can be a lifesaver.

When that is explained in mountain medicine classes, EVERYBODY comes up with the same thought. Although having done that with my spouse, I can tell you that when you are that cold, sex is the last thing on your mind.

At least until things warm up. ;) [/quote]

The place you'll find this one used to the point of cliche' is in television sitcoms. I'm 45 and it's been used countless times that I've seen. (And things always get "warmed up" enough for sex almost immediately, of course.) M*A*S*H even used a twist on this, with Major Houlihan and Hawkeye trapped in a bombing, and going from screaming in fear to making love under the gun most literally.
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon March 18th, 2013, 11:11 pm

[quote=""DianeL""]The place you'll find this one used to the point of cliche' is in television sitcoms. I'm 45 and it's been used countless times that I've seen. (And things always get "warmed up" enough for sex almost immediately, of course.) M*A*S*H even used a twist on this, with Major Houlihan and Hawkeye trapped in a bombing, and going from screaming in fear to making love under the gun most literally.[/quote]
Believe it or not, in life-and-death/wartime situations the sex drive does go on overdrive. That's been well-documented. Kind of like plants flowering twice as much under drought conditions -- reproduction ensures species survival.

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Tue March 19th, 2013, 9:47 am

[quote=""DianeL""]The place you'll find this one used to the point of cliche' is in television sitcoms. I'm 45 and it's been used countless times that I've seen. (And things always get "warmed up" enough for sex almost immediately, of course.) M*A*S*H even used a twist on this, with Major Houlihan and Hawkeye trapped in a bombing, and going from screaming in fear to making love under the gun most literally.[/quote]

I remember Mulder trying this with Scully in an X Files ep when they were out in the wilderness ;) she didn't fall for it though.
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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Tue March 19th, 2013, 11:32 pm

MLE, I do believe it, but I think even by that time M*A*S*H had jumped the shark as it were, so the wartime verisimilitude wasn't exactly compelling. :)

Madeleine - so not just sitcoms then!
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wendy
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Post by wendy » Thu March 21st, 2013, 1:46 pm

My two pet peeves:
1. Having characters acting PC at a time when no one was.
2. The heroine gets almost raped but is rescued before any damage is done - several times in the same novel. This was the flaw in OUTLANDER. Unprotected young women are still vulnerable today - and in historic times they were at greater risk, especially the poor.
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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Thu March 21st, 2013, 10:59 pm

Then again, as we were discussing in the Movies & TV thread, there can be TOO much rape - such as in World Without End. Depicting times as gritty and dangerous is one thing, but 13 rapes in one episode not only destroys the drama, but it's also just questionable writing. It looks obsessive in that sort of concentration, and can also be frankly horrifying for those who have dealt with rape/violence what have you.

Speaking of WWE (and this peeve goes well beyond historical alone), the depiction of a woman who expresses her sexuality as evil is tiresome. The depiction of any woman who has a son, who is also evil, as always being incestuous as well, is tiresome. The depiction of ignorant women as paragons is tiresome, particularly in histfic - but then, the PC depiction of women as Mary Sues, yes, is tiresome. Pretty much all of the Angel/Madonna/Whore tropes - tiresome.
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Post by Misfit » Thu March 21st, 2013, 11:43 pm

[quote=""DianeL""]Then again, as we were discussing in the Movies & TV thread, there can be TOO much rape - such as in World Without End. Depicting times as gritty and dangerous is one thing, but 13 rapes in one episode not only destroys the drama, but it's also just questionable writing. It looks obsessive in that sort of concentration, and can also be frankly horrifying for those who have dealt with rape/violence what have you.

Speaking of WWE (and this peeve goes well beyond historical alone), the depiction of a woman who expresses her sexuality as evil is tiresome. The depiction of any woman who has a son, who is also evil, as always being incestuous as well, is tiresome. The depiction of ignorant women as paragons is tiresome, particularly in histfic - but then, the PC depiction of women as Mary Sues, yes, is tiresome. Pretty much all of the Angel/Madonna/Whore tropes - tiresome.[/quote]

+1

I agree about Follet and the violence/rape and it's something I've seen in other books. I understand these things did happen, but I'm in the less is more camp. I am smart enough to understand what has happened without hearing every excruciating detail. I only read Follet's Pillars, but that was enough - a lot of the sex came off as something he was getting a kick out of it. Definitely made me want to wash up afterwards. YMMV, of course.
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Post by rebecca » Fri March 22nd, 2013, 1:12 am

[quote=""DianeL""]Then again, as we were discussing in the Movies & TV thread, there can be TOO much rape - such as in World Without End. Depicting times as gritty and dangerous is one thing, but 13 rapes in one episode not only destroys the drama, but it's also just questionable writing. It looks obsessive in that sort of concentration, and can also be frankly horrifying for those who have dealt with rape/violence what have you.

Speaking of WWE (and this peeve goes well beyond historical alone), the depiction of a woman who expresses her sexuality as evil is tiresome. The depiction of any woman who has a son, who is also evil, as always being incestuous as well, is tiresome. The depiction of ignorant women as paragons is tiresome, particularly in histfic - but then, the PC depiction of women as Mary Sues, yes, is tiresome. Pretty much all of the Angel/Madonna/Whore tropes - tiresome.[/quote]

Diane you should start a thread on the Debate tag about this issue. I do think it needs to be addressed. Up to you though.

Bec :) PS: But I'd put in my two cents worth :) :p

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Post by Misfit » Fri March 22nd, 2013, 11:22 am

Have we mentioned the old stop in the middle of whatever dangerous situation you're in (insert speeding bullets, flying arrows, just escaped from a dungeon and on the run from the king's men), and make wild passionate love without any thought of being caught by the baddies?

Also, the ever present stream/pond/lake that might conveniently appear on the trail and a heroine in need of a BATH, so that the H might observe and/or join the h for some hot kisses and/or sex.
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