Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing Period Dialogue

It's tough to walk the line between authentic period dialogue and a style the modern reader will find readable.

Words mean different things these days --for instance, "nice" used to refer to a person who was picky and petty and who found fault with everything. Slang from bygone eras can be totally incomprehensible -- when a Regency hero says, "I'll put a monkey on that" he was NOT referring to a small primate with a prehensile tail; he meant 500 pounds sterling which was a huge sum of money for the time.

Slang and period expressions are like salt -- a small sprinkling adds flavor and zest, but too much and you're grabbing for the water glass to wash it away.

I try to write the first draft without fretting too much over what the character says, or how, or whether there's too much dialect/slang or not enough, or exactly which word to use. Then when the story's in place, there's plenty of time for revision.

1 comment:

  1. Great points. Now, when did "put a monkey on your back" come in? :)