Rebels, Plots and Spies

Calling all NaNoWriMo fantasy writers out there! Are you ready for November yet? How’s your world-building going? Have you got those factions sorted out yet? What about races? Are you going to have any? Will there be friction between them? Who’s ruling your world? Is there more than one ruler? Do they get along? Are there wars? Who’s winning? Why are they fighting? Does one side thing they’re fighting because of one issue and does the other side think their fighting because of something completely different? Wait! Are there more than two sides even? Dear flubberworts, writing a fantasy-fiction novel can be confusing.

For those of you who haven’t checked out the about page I’ll let you in on a secret  well known fact about me. I love my history. Especially medieval and early modern Europe. Anything under two hundred years old can suck it, you’re too young and I’m just not that into you. But I digress. My point is, history is awesome and if you have any sort of background studying history in the medieval or early modern eras then you’re probably going to find it pretty useful when it comes to writing your novel.

Yes. This is one of those “oh she’s off on one again and is trying to disguise it as an somewhat educated blog-post”. Haha, you guys know me so well.

Anyway, my madness aside, a little knowledge is great for world building and yes I’m now going to refer to Game of Thrones. Now the books by no means reflect the real events of The Wars Of The Roses and for those of you not in the know The Wars Of The Roses were a fifteenth century civil war that took place in England. If you want more detail leave a comment and I’ll write a blog post about it but explaining it in any more depth here will lead to a very, very long rant and I’m trying to avoid those when talking about other things. So back to Game of Thrones. You can see a lot of themes from The Wars Of The Roses in the first book, and from my own reading of it I found more than a few characters who seemed to match up with the historical figures. The Wars Of The Roses lack dragons though I’m afraid.

You know that depth Game Of Thrones has? How complicated the characters are, how scheming everybody is? It some ways it seems to almost mirror reality in the fifteenth century. Did anyone reading this watch The White Queen? It’s based on a historical fiction by the same name written by Phillipa Gregory and in the T.V series you see Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and grandmother of Henry VIII (Divorce, beheaded, died, divorce, beheaded, survived.) No Margaret Beaufort was only fourteen when she gave birth to her son, and she spent the rest of her life scheming and plotting to get her son on the throne of England. Really Henry Tudor should never have taken the throne. There were questions about the legitimacy of his bloodline, he lived in exile most of his life with his Uncle in Europe and there were others with much stronger claims. He still got there though. He may of usurped Richard III to do it, but he managed it. (And thus we have the end of The Wars Of The Roses and the start of the Tudor reign which in itself gives you a whole host of plots and rebellions to be dealing with.) All in all I’m saying the English monarchy is complicated and more than that there was always something threatening the monarch just as there is in Game of Thrones. More often than not more than one thing.

Another example would be Mary I (I’ve just finished reading an article called The English Exile Community In Italy And The Political Opposition To Queen Mary I by Kenneth R. Bartlett.) In her case you have Protestant exiles staying in and receiving support from a Catholic Venice against a Spanish-Anglo marriage between Mary I and Phillip of Spain. There was an established Inquisition in Venice! Surely that should have made Venice a big no, no for Protestants since they would be considered heretics, but here we have an example of politics taking precedence over religion because there was common ground. Phillip of Spain was a Hapsburg, a family which coveted the title Holy Roman Emperor and large swaths of land across Europe. They did not want England allied with Spain against them. At the same time France has Mary Queen of Scots in their grasp who also has claim to the throne, there are plots to put Elizabeth, English Mary’s sister, on the throne and a guy called Wyatt even throws a rebellion into the pot. And that’s a basic overview.

Now imagine your writing a book. Character A is on the throne, but you want your plot to end with character B taking it. History can give you the basic outline of how that happens with a few plot-twists already formulated on the way. I’m not saying give your reader the history of […] between […] and […] but if you’re stuck working out how your fantasy kingdom works go and do some research. Have imprisoned heirs vanish without trace, rebellions of all scales for all sorts of reasons. Hike up the price of grain just to piss off one remote corner of the Kingdom that never even gets mentioned in the book only your planning. History is complicated to the extreme with connections between people in the most unusual places, put some of that into your writing.

Also be aware that everyone can be a spy and under Henry VIII the Royal Bottom Wiper was a job of huge privileged since it brought you into regular contact with the King. Royal Bottom Wipers can be useful message carriers.

And on that note I shall leave you. Good luck NaNoWriMoers!


  1. Wonderful post. History and non-fiction are definitely great sources of inspiration and add depth to a story, as you point out! (It’s the enlightenment era that inspire me the most!)


    1. It’s a fantastic era, and there’s so much discussion about how it progressed place to place. For a while there was an argument that England didn’t really have an enlightenment, and it was mostly Scotland where enlightenment had an impact but historians have been making a case of England’s behalf more recently. Thanks for stopping by.


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