EXCERPT from "Sex, Death, and Chocolate in the Middle Ages: Adding Realism to Your Fantasy" by Russ Howe in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
The Middle Ages have captured the imagination of modern writers and readers more than any other historical period. Just walk through the fiction section of any bookstore and you’ll see evidence of medieval influence—either thrust boldly into your face or working its magic in a more subtle fashion. The fantasy genre owes approximately 90% of its genetic heritage to the tropes, myths, and technology of the European Middle Ages. A turn down the romance aisle will offer you covers filled with fine maidens being wooed by brave knights (or knaves?) because physical attraction and sex haven’t changed much in five hundred years. In the field of mystery, an entire subgenre of medieval whodunits thrives. Even in modern thrillers, a crowded corner of the genre is filled with mysterious Templars and other shadowy enigmas of the period.
The challenge for genre fiction writers is two-fold. First, to understand why this period resonates so well with the modern reader (or perhaps, more importantly, the acquiring editor). Second, to master the period and its constituent elements to allow the reader to taste, smell, and feel the essence of this compelling period in European history.
Russ Howe is a Canadian barrister and a partner at the law firm of Boland Howe. He is the past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, a member of the Advocates Society, and the Law Society of Upper Canada. Russ has a specialist degree in History from the University of Toronto. He has tested for and attained the rank of Scholar at the Academy of European Martial Arts where he both trains in and teaches multiple forms of medieval combat techniques. Russ is also a member of the Canadian Heraldry Society.