Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


27.2.06
  Rules for Writing Scottish Romances

It all started with Carnival of Bad History blog post. The set of rules for writing bad historical fiction sprouted sub-genre related posts all over the blogsphere. Here is my take:

1) The hero is always depicted as Highland chief (complete with kilt and basket hilt sword usually - and wrongly - called claymore), even if he lives in the Lowlands.

2) The heroine is always English.

3) She's described as feisty; often red haired.

4) The bad guy is her father/brother/betrothed.

5) The heroine, in most cases abducted by the hero, first hates him and sees him a savage but soon can't resist his alpha maleness (her betrothed is a whimp, after all) and falls in lurve. Of course, she goes over to the Scottish side at that point. A bit angsting is ok, but not too much. This is a romance, not a psychological portrait of a woman torn by opposite allegiances.

6) The hero is in lurve with the English girl since he met her at a ball he attended in disguise to spy on the English.

7) If the English characters (except the heroine) are keen on getting more money, it's always greed.

8) If the Scottish hero is keen on getting money, it's to help his clansmen to buy cattle, or sometimes to restore his ancient seat which the English destroyed.

9) The hero says "Ye ken, lassie," a lot.

10) If the hero drinks a lot of whisky, it's alpha male-y, if the English do it, it's depraved and a sign of inherent weakness.

11) The Campbells are the only Scottish clan that is bad.

12) There can be a clan feud, but it has to be ended in order to fight the English. Except if it involves the Campbells because those are bad (see 11).

13) The Scots win the decisive battle despite they're outnumbered five to one and fight with swords against muskets. This is achieved by the famous downhill charge.

14) There must be at least one scene where the hero shows the heroine the beauty of his country by dragging her along over mountains and stones, though heather and moor, until he finds a river where he can catch some salmon with his bare hands. Romantic dinner ensues.

15) Never bother about the differences between pre- and post-Culloden Scotland, even if you mention Culloden as example for the badness of the English.

16) The hero must at some point deliver a speech stuffed with platitudes about the greatness and braveness of the Scots from the times of their mysterious selkie ancestor onwards (and never mention Normans or Vikings in the family trees), and list a number of vile English kings that tried to unjustly suppress the Scots.

17) Bonus points if you can manage that speech while the hero stands in chains in front of his English captors. He will of course get flogged for such an insult, and the heroine has a chance to escape with him.

18) The hero has a trusted sidekick who hates the Sassenach girl until she manages to save his life.

19) The heroine can ride in a man's saddle. She also has a favourite horse, preferably some breed that would never be able to find footing on highland mountains if this were not a romance.

20) The hero is able to swim across any loch in the depth of winter without getting a cold. While escaping several salvas of arrows or bullets.

And our lovely Smart Bitches have the Monday cover snark to go with it.
 
Comments:
What about the woad and the heroic speeches about freedom, ala Braveheart? Got to be good a couple more rules, surely?
 
Lol, feel free to add.

It took me a lot of Whisky to clear my brain of that particular reading experience back in 1998. :-)
 
Esscuse me? I need to correct #9 it's often "ye ken, lassie." I know this because I smirk at the dog bit.

And you forgot the dour old warrior/companion/servant to the hero who loathes the sassenach girlie heroine until she does something to prove she's spunk to the backbone (eww) and willing to sacrifice something for the hero's sake.
 
11) The Campbells are the only Scottish clan that is bad.

Thus proving there are a damn more MacGregors published than people realize, and that after eight hundred years of feud, the MacGregors may have lost land and fortune but we got ours back in the end.

*snicker*

s greer
 
Kate,
I'll add some more tomorrow. Keep 'em coming. *grin*

Sgreer,
I'm sure you still owe me for those cattle your ancestor lifted from my ancestor some 300 years ago. Or was it the other way round? Family tradtion is a bit muddled there. :-)
 
How funny -
Of course when the Scotch drink Whiskey it's medicinal - everyone knows that.
Funny about the bonus points if the hero is in chains. The whole thing had me in stitches. To be printed up and sent to all aspiring writes who want to write a 'historical scottish romance' LOL
 
Why is it, when he's showing her the beauty of the country, that they never end up in a bog? or get generally muddy and wet? Because most times I've been dragged around to be shown the beauty, mud has played a big role.

And rain. Or drizzle. Or sleet, depending on how much the weather hates you.

And damn right the Campbell's are evil ;).
 
~shrieking hysterically~
You're a-fearin' ma sheep!
Now about that feud....
 
Gabriele - You forgot 1(a): Even in the Middle Ages, kilts use the clan tartans that spoilsport historians call a 19th c. invention.
 
Lol Sam, glad you liked it. Check the links on Sarah's blog, there are lists for other hit fic subgenres, too.

Ali, I suspect most of the writers of these books have never been to Scotland. And for some reason, the travel books manage to get pictures of castle ruins in sunshine.

Bernita, the feud is integral part of the tourism advertisment. No Armadale visit without some stories about the evil Campbells, and no Inverary visit without some stories about the evil MacDonalds. Since the chiefs happen to be friends nowadays, the whole is presented with a twinkling of the eye.

Rick, there weren't even kilts in the 12th century. Trewes and chequered cloaks yes, but there's no proof for kilts I know of.
 
It's a well-known fact that the weather in the Scottish Highlands is always glorious with blue skies and unbroken sunshine. Rain, cloud and gales only appear when there are tourists about. Ditto for midges.

Do you suppose the red hair is to indicate the heroine is a Scot at heart and/or possessed of a fiery temperament, and therefore a fitting mate for a Highland chieftain?

Nigel Tranter made a whole plot twist out of the fact that Robert Bruce and his companions couldn't swim across Loch Lomond. Tsk, tsk. Clearly that Bruce wasn't a Real Man.
 
oh yeah, the swimming thing. The hero and heroine must go dunk themselves in some body of crisp, clear or rushing water outside. In the highlands. Brrrr.

But they won't shiver, turn blue-lipped, goosebumpy and or die of hypothermia. Her skin will get all rosy and her nipples will do attractive things.
 
oh, and there might be a buxom gurlie the hero bedded before he met the heroine. She'll be dark, dumpy and have giant bosoms unlike the heroine who'll be a frail beauty. She'll be a slut, for sure. At some point someone will likely compare her to a sturdy highland pony.

She'll probably try to poison the heroine, or maybe just drive her off. Or perhaps she'll end up the heroine's staunchest allie? a lot depends on whether or not she gets bedded by some other Brave Warrior (see "best friend,hero")
 
Gabriele - I thought the "great kilt" (not the familiar modern version!) was attested from burials going quite a long ways back? Another costume thing to research!
 
Her skin will get all rosy and her nipples will do attractive things.

Kate, you're an evil girl. :-)

Carla, I vaguely remember that scene. How did the man ever get published? ;-)

Rick, I should check that as well. But the problem is that so many websites about the kilt get things wrong that I don't trust any of them.
 
You mean a gal's nipples don't get extra nice looking when she's been skinnydipping in water just above freezing? Bummer ...

Aaarrgh about kilt websites!
 
Absolutely Gabriele, I used to do 17th Century historical re-enactments (English Civil War)where we protrayed a bunch of Scots mercenaries and the kilt discussion went on FOREVER! When and where they were introduced etc.

Suffice to say, Mel wouldn't have been wearing a kilt if he knew his history.
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/celt-clothing/
 
Nor would he have painted his face blue. That's really so out of fashion.

I had some problems with the kilt since I didn't do much research at all for my first version of Kings and Rebels and dressed Alastair in one. Roderic was wearing 12th century Norman fashion from the beginning. But I now gave Alastair trewes (at least in the colder time of the year) léine, inar, and a long cloak. He does prefer the green and blue shades of the later Campbell tartan, though. ;-)
 
LOL

No comments, nuff said... xD

I'll simply add how much I prefer having the comments on the main window, this popup thing is pretty annoying, the window is small, and doen't play well with tabbed browsing in firefox...

And the really bad guys are the Kurgan (I guess the whole of the culture, hehe :-) not the Campbells nor...

Kallisti!
 
I need to get out more. Ye ken, lassie?
 
Och, gurlie, you see that pooetry that EAP wrote at the bitches? The woman's a genius.
 
You covered everything pretty well. Just remember that all Highlanders (Lowlanders don't count) are at least 6'4", with arms and legs like tree trunks, who can swing a sword all day, then have seven hours of energetic and inventive, er, tea and crumpets with frail English chick and on roughly an hour and a half of sleep be ready to train with the lads and steal some cattle.
 
Lol Robyn, must be all that haggis that makes them so tough.
 
Don't forget how the hero always has lots of brothers, and at least one fiesty sister/in-law who is so fond of him, and tells him how the heroine is the one for him even if he doesn't believe it.
 
Being a bit partial to Scottish romances I can see how many of the books I have read have not broken the rules!! Oh dear!

I hope you don't mind if I snag these for my blog...with appropriate credit of course!
 
Hi marg,
feel free to snag.

december quinn,
the more I think about it, the more rules one could find. Thanks for stopping by. I saw that you posted a chapter at the Crapometer, I'll go have a look tomorrow.
 
Thanks!
 
Thanks Gabriele!
 
Oh, I love historical fiction. I'll have to add you to my blogroll. Btw, I found you through crabbcows' site.
 
LMAO!! I am Scottish and have read LOTS of these romances. Not many of them mention how...hmmm...thrifty, frugal, dare I say flinty (?) a true Scot can be. How many ketchup packets from MacDonald's does your mother have in her fridge??
 
Regarding your sword comment in the first item, basket hilts actually were oten called ;basket hilt claymores' because they were (or at least were purported to be) made using claymore blades.

Other than that, fab list.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction and Fantasy living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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