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Writing Historical Fiction: Morals, Values, and Traditions

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Hello, my fellow eggs!

The purpose of this blog post is to introduce you to historical fiction. This first lesson will go explore the importance of setting and time, and how this relates to your story's plot and character development.

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Table of Contents

➵ Education

➵ Honor and Duty

➵ Filial Piety

➵ Coming of Age Rituals

➵ Marriage

➵ Faith and Worship

➵ Death

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↠ Education ↞


Education is extremely important in most cultures because it helps create more opportunities for individuals. It can further their financial success, help them be seen as respectable and dutiful people of society, and ultimately attractive.

In certain cultures in the past, women were expected to be educated in the arts such as tea ceremonies, music, dance, and embroidery. Without this education, they would be looked down upon because it was often equated with low social value and poverty.

To upper class individuals, the degree of education that one received would be seen as a tool to help determine one's character and whether they would be a good match for marriage. However, this ultimately created discourse between the different social classes.

Today, society is more accepting of individuals with any level of education. Most don't need a college degree to get a simple job, though it is recommended for higher paying jobs.


↠ Honor and Duty ↞


Honor can be viewed in many different ways: (1) in battle, (2) in one's daily lifestyle, and (3) in society.

1) In Battle: The degree of honor varies from country to country and depends on the conditions. In some cases, it is considered dishonorable to kill or continue to fight another person if they are a disarmed soldier or innocent. However, in cases of war, that may not matter as much because soldiers are expected to do whatever it takes to protect their country, even if it means killing someone that can no longer fight. In cases like these, the dishonor would be to fail to serve one's country or to succumb to cowardice and flee.

Punishments vary from culture to culture, but typically it results in execution because it is believed that their death can atone for those that died as a result of their cowardice. In other cases, individuals may be sentenced to life imprisonment with nothing but their thoughts to keep them company.

2) In Daily Lifestyle: Children were seen, and still are to some extent, as a parent's legacy. Their actions and thoughts reflect on them as a member of society and as a parent. That being said, children, no matter their age, were regarded based on a parent's achievements.

To be dishonorable would be the same as blatantly disobeying one's parents whether in the household or in matters of life. This is why certain individuals seemingly didn't have a choice in who they married and who they were allowed to fall in love with. This is closely tied to filial piety.

3) In Society: In society, individuals are supposed to act with a high degree of decorum and respect. Who they associate with and the actions they make can easily leave a mark on their name and presence in society.

Associating with what people may consider "the wrong crowd" gives opportunity for scandal and slander. A majority of the time, individuals were shunned from society or forced into self-imposed exile.


↠ Filial Piety ↞


Filial piety is the act of being respectful to one's parents, elders, and ancestors. This is highly regarded in Buddhist religions. It helps children understand the importance of being considerate to their parents and to never bring harm to them.

Filial piety can manifest in various different ways, such as marrying another individual of higher class to bring honor to their family, taking care of their elders when they are sick, or ensuring that the family name is being carried on.


↠ Coming of Age Rituals ↞


When a child reaches a certain age in their life, they may be required to participate in some sort of trial or test to prove that they are ready to take on the responsibilities that come with being older. In African cultures, boys may be required to successfully bring back evidence of a successful hunt or participate in dancing ceremonies before castration.

Other cultures may take on a more religious standpoint. For example, in Hispanic cultures, when a girl reaches fifteen, they have a Quinceañera and this is basically when they renew their vows at Catholic mass.

Incorporating rituals such as coming-of-age ceremonies can be helpful if you need a foundation to illustrate character development. It also gives you, as the author, the opportunity to delve deeper into the character's mind as they are going through the ceremony.

Example (Hestia's Wish)

❝Hestia stood among fifteen other children, waiting to be called by one of the local blacksmiths. She brushed a loose strand of her auburn hair behind her ear nervously. She had been dreading the ritual for two years because she knew she was running out of time in deciding what she would do after she completed her apprenticeship.

It was a common practice, enforced by Aries, for children to complete such a ritual when they reached thirteen years of age. Their apprenticeship with the blacksmiths was used to expand the Aithnean armory. By the end of a person's servitude, they were expected to have crafted a reliable weapon. Those that failed to produce a worthy weapon for the Celestial Ram would be thrown into the heart of a volcano on the island of Fi. If they succeeded, they would either join the ranks of the Pyrkagía, Aithne's notorious army, or spend the rest of their lives harvesting gemstones in Ironridge's mines.❞

As we see in this example, blacksmith apprenticeship is a coming-of-age ritual that is held for thirteen year old children.


↠ Marriage ↞


In the past, marriages weren't seen as just an established form of love. They were seen as opportunities and even a form of neutrality. Marriages could help solve a person's financial problems, form alliances between two feuding parties, or increase the power of both families involved.

Marriages were either pre-arranged by parents or after a successful courtship (we will discuss courtship when we reach the historical romance unit). Often times, love was completely absent from the relationship or pushed to the side in order to satisfy a family's needs.

It took more than simply fancying a person. Both sides had to be well disciplined, knowledgeable, and hold all of the skills that their gender was expected to have such as cooking, cleaning, sewing, earning income for their family, etc. They also had to have great social standing, one completely untarnished by rumor and scandal.


↠ Faith and Worship ↞


There are many different religions in the world and it's important to be aware of the dominant ones when your story takes place in a specific area. If you plan to utilize an uncommon, meaning one of the less dominant ones in a specific area, or a fictional religion, it's important to explain how that religion was introduced to their nation. How did it spread to their nation? Was it through travel, trade, or invasions? Or did it originate there?

Many people depend on this religious faith in times of famine, drought, disease, and many other natural events. Some think that these type of events may be a form of divine retribution for not being as diligent with their worship. Others may not look to deities as a reason. However, religion was a prevalent force in the past, so it's important to take that into consideration when laying out the story's backdrop.


↠ Death ↞


Death rituals can manifest in many different ways, but it is ultimately dependent on culture. For example, in the United States, funerals are typically held to bury loved ones and formally send them off to the afterlife. Sometimes, families may attend church to pray for their dead loved ones or they may even attend a wake to stay up all night with the body, remembering what it was like when they were alive.

Other traditions involve the Ancient Egyptians' use of mummification, in which individuals are embalmed before being laid to rest. (I will not go into detail about embalming due to the graphic content, however you are free to conduct your own research.) It was believed that individuals that weren't properly laid to rest would return as a ghost and haunt people.

Thank you for reading! I hope you find this helpful!

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