1. shanemitchell1
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    shanemitchell1 Member

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    Am I breaking the rules?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by shanemitchell1, Apr 4, 2009.

    I am writing my novel and the time frame is set upon the medieval times or somewhere around that ime period, and although it is not in the realm of earth but in the bases of another place like earth, (like Tolkien's world.) but I am a little confused about how my characters dialogue should sound. I'v tried reading Stephen Lawhead, but I just can't get through any of his books because all of the old' english style of writing and dialogue that he uses. I'm not bashing Lawhead, it's just not my style, and my question here is: can I use more of a regular style of talking with my dialogue with a book based off medieval times, or do I have to stick with "Thou" and "Thee" and all those other old school verbs in my dialogue?

    Thanks.
     
  2. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    Yes you can, and you should be. The old english style would vex the reader, as it did to you. People would put down your book pretty quickly if you used old english.
    Try using a higher level, more formal use of current english for you nobler characters. your middlerclass characters should be using not as formal, and your pesent classes a lower form. (although these depend on your character)
     
  3. shanemitchell1
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    shanemitchell1 Member

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    Awesome. Just that advise there made the difference. Thanks.
     
  4. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    It totally depends upon who your audience will be. For instance, I would prefer something like the dialogue in Robin Hood--The Disney animated version. But if you are writing a serious book for a more serious audience, you might want to consider using more authentic medieval speech. That doesn't meanith thatith youith havith toith writeith likith thisith, though

    ith
     
  5. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Personally I wouldn't use the thou/thee/thy speech because it can be very annoying to read- not to mention the correct usage of thou/thee/thy is still pretty heavily debated. Unless you're writing a medieval epic fantasy poem then the thou/thee/thy is pretty useless as few readers like to try to untangle the mess those words tend to make out of the current English language.

    Not to mention, if you use thee/thou/thy in dialogue, then you have to use it in the rest of your novel too- the type of language you use in dialogue and in the story itself should be compatible with each other and switching from modern to medieval in text and dialogue would not only be distracting but also frustrating (and I think inappropriate).
     
  6. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    ah the language, the creatures within a story, should we equate them to pieces already written. the question is why? if we write about an alien planet, with aliens, we all put them into english or a earth language with no quarrels. and yet when it comes to a past, which could be in a country such as russia/bolivia/south pacific or scandinavian culture, so why the need to resort to that old language we believe is suited for that time era?

    try to make it easy on the reader. as was mentioned, if you wished to make this a serious( and i mean serious with fact based and such) than maybe but you best know your language well and carry it through, other wise, why bother.
     
  7. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    The dialogue is going to have an effect on the aesthetics of the story, so consider it as a way of showing the reader the time period.
     
  8. bluejt2000
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    Here's a link that might prove useful: http://www.medievalacademy.org/medacnews/news_frazer.htm

    I'm writing a medieval mystery novel that is actually set in history (1450) and I've asked myself the same questions.

    All other modern writers in that genre that I've come across dispense with 'thou' and 'thee', etc., but use a more formal sentence structure. They don't use contractions though, since they didn't exist then.

    If you want historical accuracy you need to watch out for anachronisms in your choice of words. My story involves blackmail, for instance, but that term did not exist in the middle ages; instead they used the word 'extortion'. Even though your novel is set in a fictional world this would also help to give a sense of times past.

    I wouldn't worry too much about getting the characters' words exactly right while writing a draft. Sentence structure can be altered and period words and phrases dropped in later.

    Most of the dialogue can be written in plain, modern English but a more formal sentence structure coupled with the inclusion of a few medieval words and phrases adds interest and help place the novel in its historical setting.

    I regard it as being simliar to writing dialect, where a little versimilitude goes a very long way. Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose is a good example to follow. It's a bestseller yet the language has an authentic air without being difficult to read.

    I hope this helps and good luck with your novel.

    John
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your story may have an improved atmosphere if you use some of the language of the time, but only if you understand it well enough. If you try to use period language without a solid grasp of it, it will come across as ludicrous.

    If instead you use ordinary English, avoiding obvious anachronisms like current day street or net slang, you may be much better off. The reader is much less likely to notice the lack of colorful speech than the presence of poorly constructed period speech.

    Face it - if you have ever read Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare's plays, you will know that your "period speech" is no more than a veneer. True period speech would be impenetrable for most readers, or at least tedious to wade through.
     
  10. Nobody Important
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    This is what I'm doing, so I hope it's alright too. I have an explanation on why they are talking like normal English in my book.

    The time period is medieval but there has been a recent explosion in new technologies and their culture is advancing rapidly. Many people are changing their lifestyles to fit all these new technologies and also changing the way they talk as well. In my book some of the people still talk like medieval English because they are older and don't want to change. One of my characters is like that and for a joke he has difficulty understanding these new phrases everyone is saying and it causes some trouble when he mistakes some words.
     
  11. othman
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    othman Member

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    I agree with Aeroflot, it totally depends on your audience. For example, if it's a simple book for adults who don't read much especially regarding your time period then just speak like how your characters would speak if our language was what they used. But if you're trying to portray a 'real' story for more experienced readers then you kind of have to use olde English. But, but, remember that spelling wasn't exactly universal back then, so you can ignore that part of history but you have to, especially if you're ignoring the language to an extent, write like they would say. Like don't have a knight attempting, rather crudely, to chat a noble's daughter up. If you catch my drift...
     
  12. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    bluejt2000 and cog have it pretty spot on.

    You're writing to a modern english audience. To define character difference (to show upbringing, nobilty, lower class) you need to change the tone of your dialougue, not neccesarally the language itself.
    Cog does bring up the point though that old english type words might add to the atmosphere but it is much harder to pull off. Meaning, in reference to your question, you are allowed to use "thee" and "thou" etc, but you have to be able to make it work!
     

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