Saturday, July 5, 2008

Writing Rant

I wandered over to Jeff Draper's blog, Scriptorius Rex, and weighed in on his rant about being aware of time periods and the proper vocabulary when writing about them.

He is reading through entries submitted for a sword-and-sorcery anthology of short stories, and is encountering dialogue that is too modern for the material.

Ever encountered that in your own reading? Or viewing?

In the second half of my previous post, I mentioned A Knight's Tale, which uses modern dialogue and music on purpose, a case of "you gotta know the rules before you can break them." However, most instances of anachronistic language rise from 1) ignorance, or 2) laziness.

This may seem harsh, but if I stumble over that kind of stuff when reading an already-published piece, I am pulled out of the story and will very likely not finish it. All the author's skill is put in doubt after that point, and I generally cannot trust him (or her).

One must trust the storyteller in order to complete the journey.


That being said, I turn around and apply the same harsh judgment to my own work. I nitpick until I drive friends crazy, trying to get stuff right, but I've learned in the past several years to keep the audible nitpicking to a minimum. (laughing)

Tex (Pappy's Balderdash) helped by sending a link when I was seeking pirate-y jargon and nautical terminology for the "Space Pirates" tale. I had enough of a foundation to know what I didn't know, thanks to a father who was in the navy and told us stories, and to my own childhood interest in all things nautical.

My brother and sister-in-law have helped me work through thorny story issues i.e. a sword fight on a battlefield or a climb up a mountain or raising a clutch of dragon young. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. There's no real-world precedent for that last one.)

Jadesmith is reading through the first manuscript in the Dragon series, and she's pointing out places where the dialogue doesn't match the characters. Crucial help.

And, despite grumbling from a few fellow writers who just can't seem to grasp the point of fantasy fiction, or who refuse to read certain archaic words in context and thus understand their meaning, I continue to use old-fashioned vocabulary that fits the time period and the location. I'm stubborn that way.

Always, always, be true to the story. Everything else will follow.


Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

No complaints here about your vocabulary and dialogue in your Space Pirates story. I think it's spot on.

As for dialogue or vocab that seems out of place, I would have to say that I really noticed it in the movie Titanic. The way that Leo's character spoke and how he said things, was right out of the 90's, not the time period when the Titanic made her maiden (and last) voyage. It bothered me!

Eaglewing said...

Very true. Finding the right words for the setting is crucial and often difficult if it isn't set in what we know. Nothing worse than being pulled out of a story.

However, your Space Pirates story seemed to really have it down and was fun to read. The lingo had the right vibe, dude :)