Two of the biggest snags for me personally revolve around picking the right names and getting the travel plans for my characters I’ve unceremoniously dumped in the wilderness right. Oh, and those travel plans are a true headache when you’re jumping from a small group to stealthily moving an entire army across mountainous terrain, especially if, like me, you want the vast majority of the army to arrive at their destination in fighting condition. Things are so much easier if you’re writing the army where it’s okay if they drop like flies. However, I have discovered two new resources for both the pesky names and keeping your characters alive without being too anachronistic (medieval enthusiasts are likely to hunt you down if your historical fantasy characters eat potatoes in medieval-esque Europe, btw).
Name Your Medieval Character: Medieval Christian Names (12th-13th Centuries) by Joyce DiPastena – 4 out of 5 Stars
As a fantasy writer, I’m always searching for the perfect name. Sometimes the feel of the world or character needs a medieval name, which can be difficult to find, especially for women. This book has an excellent list for both male and female names. I liked how DiPastena took the time to indicate when a name was most popular or going out of fashion or restricted to a particular culture, such as if a name was only popular with the Normans or was a hold out from the Anglo-Saxons, which has the bonus of being useful to anyone writing a historical fantasy. While the main focus is on names popular in the 12th and 13th centuries, there are also names whose popularity peaked or waned in both past and future centuries up to the 15th century. The only reason I didn’t give this book five stars is because I would have found it even more helpful if the author had included name translations since I prefer giving characters names that sum up their character, highlight an important aspect of or ideal behind the character, or is ironic. It’s a great resource for medieval names and aids in determining whether a name will make your character part of the crowd or the odd duck out, but if you want to know the meaning behind the names, you’ll have to compare it with medieval name sites (such as Behind the Name). Available on Kindle and in paperback, this is a must have for anyone contemplating using medieval names or setting their fantasy in a heavily inspired by medieval times world.
What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A Fantasy Lover’s Food Guide by Krista D. Ball – 5 out of 5 Stars
One of the most difficult things for me when writing it figuring out what my characters should be eating, drinking, and carrying with them. I am constantly scrambling to track down which berries, fruits, vegetables, etc., are available in a particular season. This book is the solution I wish I had found when I first began incorporating specific details about meals and traveling into my stories. Whether writing a medieval-esque sweeping fantasy or a Victorian mystery, Ball provides enough hints, tidbits, and even recipes (usually one a chapter) to help address some of the most obvious (or not so obvious) blunders writers make regarding food, drink, and keeping your heroes and heroines alive while traveling. I appreciate the seasonal calendar guide in the appendix (it will make figuring out what exactly is served at the feasts so much easier), but my favorite and most useful section is in regards to marching an army and the different ways to keep them from being too weak to fight at the end of the road. The comparison to modern hiking and army calorie requirements (for both men and women) to keep fit and not die while getting from point A to point B truly helps bring home the situation of how important it is to figure out proper rations. After all, in fantasy, we usually throw enough problems at our characters that we shouldn’t toss starving to death on top of it…unless the story requires it, of course. 😉 I recommend this book for every writer. It compiles all the information you usually have to search through multiple websites and survival/ancient/medieval life books into one source. Available on Kindle and in paperback, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank is an absolute must-have for Fantasy writers!
Look for more book reviews every Wednesday.
Next week – Tamed by Sarah Witenhafer