What Did You Learn?

November 15, 2009

General Writing: Period Pieces

Filed under: General Writing, Genre — Tags: , — ax20 @ 6:40 pm

Think of the movie A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. The story begins in the present and then goes to the past. There would have to be an obvious distinction in the way the past and present are presented to show how different the two time periods are. In the movie, for example, he uses phrased that they do not understand to show that he is out of place. We see metalsmiths working on things that we don’t really use today, torches used to light the room, etc. The exact details of the scene are what make us feel like he has actually gone back in time.

Whenever you want to write something historical, you have an extra struggle to contend with. For one thing, you need to do enough research to make your story believable. Clearly if you have someone driving a car in the 1500s people are going to know something’s up. But it’s not just the general details you need to research, but the tone and speech and manners as well. Dialogue, for example, is tough, since someone a hundred years ago won’t be “messaging” anyone or saying “cool.” This is a hard thing to research since you can’t just listen to people around you to figure out how things are said. The best way to do this is to watch movies, read books, read old diaries, etc to get used to the way people spoke during the time period you are writing about.

Whatever you do, make sure you get it right. There is nothing more irritating than reading a book where it takes place a few centuries ago but the people talk like they’ve grown up in the 21st century. If you do not feel prepared or comfortable with older dialogue, phrases, etc, then you might want to consider another story.

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