Monday, June 7, 2010

Time Travel and Historical Research

When I was first invited to join this oustanding group of writers I was, in a word, thrilled. I've been a devoted fan of historial fiction and romance since my teens and my thirst for the genre has never dimmed. I have one series, at the moment, that is historical, my western Bride series. It often seems to me westerns, even western romance, is very much its own genre, but it is still historical.

Mostly I write time travels. Most of the time you see time travels listed as fantasy or perhaps science fiction. But they cross over into historical (or futuristic) either when the hero or heroine comes to the present or they travel back in time. I think time travels offer readers and authors a rich opportunity to explore the realm of "what if."

I had one of those "what if" moments while working on my last WIP this past week. I knew where I wanted to go with my antagonist, but I just wasn't getting there. I'd spent hours looking through medieval punishments, things we'd consider torture today and, in fact, they refer to it as torture on the websites. They had some mighty creative ways of punishing wrong doers back then. It's amazing what the human mind can come up with.

Among my favorites were the Brank where the The Brank was used to humiliate women who got involved in brawling with  her neighbours or generally breaking the peace, or just being a public nuisance to the neighbourhood, women who gossiped with no purpose other than to offend, ridicule or lie about someone else were subject to this torture.


The device was a metal cage or mask that enclosed the head, often with ridiculous adornments designed to humiliate its victim. In some towns, the Brank had a bell attached to its rear only to announce the presence of the victim who was instantly mocked by the people she "endangered" through gossip.

The other was the Street Sweeper's Daughter which while it may have been used in Englaish, was mostly found in in Russia and the Middle East.


The Street Sweeper's Daughter worked by compressing the victim's body; just like The Rack, but inversely so. The torturer Could tighten the device or loosen it up, depending on the victim's offense.

This device although not very painful-looking, was often employed publicly to humiliate the victim. Those particularly hated individuals were often at the mercy of an angry crowd that often threw stones and fecal maters to the exposed victim. The immobilized victim was also frequently led to madness, as the torture period could last for weeks or months.

As to what this has to do with romance? Well, if someone was making your life difficult at best, wouldn't you love to have your hero give him, or her, a bit of a comeuppance? Justice can be grand.

I found, however, that while reading through these different devices was interesting, they weren't doing much to move my story along. Where did my villian go from there? I stumbled on a much more creative avenue, one that will lead to book 3 of the series. One that gives my heroine a much more romantic ending. While a year out before it is published, the possibilities are limitless.

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