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Cliches in Historical Fiction

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kodiakblair
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Cliches

Post by kodiakblair » Sun March 24th, 2013, 4:35 pm

My personal bugbears are smells. " The rank odour of stale sweat " or " The ordure of rotten food and human waste " . Bugs me for a few reasons

1 When your in the field you don't notice sweat you notice incomers cause
clean people smell different.
2 Unless you beamed in from the 20th century the whole world smelled of animals and garbage. Somehow I don't think the tanners went " Oh it stinks
in here today " If that's your environment you don't know any different.

That's my tuppence worth.

Forgot folk saying " Must Needs " nobody says that. In Scotland we say
" Needs Must "

Cheers K.B

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Sun March 24th, 2013, 9:44 pm

[quote=""wendy""]My two pet peeves:
1. Having characters acting PC at a time when no one was.
[/quote]

May I second that one? :mad:

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Mon March 25th, 2013, 10:39 am

[quote=""kodiakblair""]My personal bugbears are smells. " The rank odour of stale sweat " or " The ordure of rotten food and human waste " . Bugs me for a few reasons

1 When your in the field you don't notice sweat you notice incomers cause
clean people smell different.
2 Unless you beamed in from the 20th century the whole world smelled of animals and garbage. Somehow I don't think the tanners went " Oh it stinks
in here today " If that's your environment you don't know any different.
That's my tuppence worth.

Forgot folk saying " Must Needs " nobody says that. In Scotland we say
" Needs Must "

Cheers K.B[/quote]

that's a really good point KB, I never thought of it like that before. I suppose the author is trying to conjure up the atmosphere at the time, maybe for people who are fairly new to HF. Good point though! :)
Currently reading: The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon March 25th, 2013, 11:22 am

[quote=""kodiakblair""]
2 Unless you beamed in from the 20th century the whole world smelled of animals and garbage. Somehow I don't think the tanners went " Oh it stinks
in here today " If that's your environment you don't know any different.

Cheers K.B[/quote]

The tanners might not have done, but other people did. There were frequent complaints about stinks from the butchers shambles and the tanneries by those outside such trades. One of the reasons tanneries were put on the edges or outside the cities was because of the smells and the complaints about the smells. People involved in occupations that were dirty or smelly were 'stigmatized and stereotyped' according to C.M. Woolgar in 'The Senses in Medieval England' Yale University Press, the chapter on smell - it's a fascinating book that dispels a lot of myths. People did notice bad smells and didn't like them!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

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DianeL
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Post by DianeL » Mon March 25th, 2013, 2:51 pm

The issue in historical is the definition of what would have been a bad smell. I've discussed this ad nauseum at my blog, and there are some really good links to external articles and scholarship to be gleaned at these posts (first one is the most relevant to this thread). I even discussed it in my author's note.

Finding some smells "bad" is hard-wired into our makeup - the smell of death repels us because it is healthiest for humans to stay away from such decay, likewise most of the time the smells of our elimination disgust most - though over many generations, we found ways to actually use it, particularly urine, for its constituent chemicals. Not for nothing did people who handled the dead or these products come to be considered ritually or socially unclean, unjust as castes seem to us today. The smells of a body in ill health, too, can be unpleasant - indeed, even today, certain smells can be part of a diagnostic process.

BUT finding, say, the healthy body "stinky" when it has been sweating and working is highly relative (a truly excellent NPR piece here includes also an even more in-depth link, and discusion of a book I *really* need to own). When a little girl has to be taught that her grandmother's body odor is unpleasant, there's no reason to assume anyone would have found it so "in the past" (insert/choose your period and geography here). Cultural differences are famously coded for us, though - the filthy northern European who offends an eastern or southern nose, the overly perfumed person seeming suspicious to a more earthy character, etc. Even bathing itself has historically been managed in countless different methods and manners.

:) Bec, I try not to start new threads generally, but I'd participate if you started one! Maybe best not, though, I do have perhaps-unnecessary opinions about rape culture.
"To be the queen, she agreed to be the widow!"

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rebecca
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Post by rebecca » Tue March 26th, 2013, 1:03 am

[quote=""DianeL""]The issue in historical is the definition of what would have been a bad smell. I've discussed this ad nauseum at my blog, and there are some really good links to external articles and scholarship to be gleaned at these posts (first one is the most relevant to this thread). I even discussed it in my author's note.

Finding some smells "bad" is hard-wired into our makeup - the smell of death repels us because it is healthiest for humans to stay away from such decay, likewise most of the time the smells of our elimination disgust most - though over many generations, we found ways to actually use it, particularly urine, for its constituent chemicals. Not for nothing did people who handled the dead or these products come to be considered ritually or socially unclean, unjust as castes seem to us today. The smells of a body in ill health, too, can be unpleasant - indeed, even today, certain smells can be part of a diagnostic process.

BUT finding, say, the healthy body "stinky" when it has been sweating and working is highly relative (a truly excellent NPR piece here includes also an even more in-depth link, and discusion of a book I *really* need to own). When a little girl has to be taught that her grandmother's body odor is unpleasant, there's no reason to assume anyone would have found it so "in the past" (insert/choose your period and geography here). Cultural differences are famously coded for us, though - the filthy northern European who offends an eastern or southern nose, the overly perfumed person seeming suspicious to a more earthy character, etc. Even bathing itself has historically been managed in countless different methods and manners.

:) Bec, I try not to start new threads generally, but I'd participate if you started one! Maybe best not, though, I do have perhaps-unnecessary opinions about rape culture.[/quote]

That's alright Diane....I started one debate and so will wait for someone to bring up something new. :)

Bec :)

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wendy
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Post by wendy » Thu March 28th, 2013, 10:00 pm

[quote=""rebecca""]That's alright Diane....I started one debate and so will wait for someone to bring up something new. :)

Bec :) [/quote]

Guess it should be me then! Here goes -
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http://www.FireOnDarkWater.com

John Sliz
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Post by John Sliz » Thu April 4th, 2013, 12:15 pm

This has been a very interesting thread. Also interesting is that it doesn't touch on anything military. Could it be that from a historical point of view the business of war is better documented than the day to day life of the average citizen? I think so.

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Thu April 4th, 2013, 1:04 pm

[quote=""John Sliz""]This has been a very interesting thread. Also interesting is that it doesn't touch on anything military. Could it be that from a historical point of view the business of war is better documented than the day to day life of the average citizen? I think so.[/quote]

Good point John.

However one cliche I often find in war-set fiction is when the lover of the hero/heroine is missing, presumed dead, and then suddenly re-appears at an incovenient moment ie usually when their other half has just, or is just about to, get it together with someone new - seems to happen every time :rolleyes:
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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu April 4th, 2013, 2:04 pm

[quote=""John Sliz""]This has been a very interesting thread. Also interesting is that it doesn't touch on anything military. Could it be that from a historical point of view the business of war is better documented than the day to day life of the average citizen? I think so.[/quote]

War fiction, I'm sure has its own cliches. Having not read it, but watched a few movies I can say:

Young hero proving himself a great warrior
coming back from death even though his wounds should kill a normal person
Not remembering who they were
their wife/girlfriend whoever leaving

While battles were written about in detail I don't think that determines cliches. I think what does is when writers fall into a plot hole, think they are being creative, but just aren't.

So I wouldn't say cliches arent in war HF. They are. There is cliches in every genre.
Last edited by Divia on Thu April 4th, 2013, 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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