1. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    comparisons

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by erebh, Apr 27, 2013.

    If a story is set in medieval times is it ok to compare something then to something in modern times, in a description?

    For example;
    The decayed corpse was still bubbling like freshly melted cheese on toast.
    The sourcerer's magic box was the size of an i-phone.

    These are not the terms I want to use but just wondering if I have to keep the comparison medieval as well. Will it take the reader out of the story and say WTF?
     
  2. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Yes. At least, it would for me. When I'm reading, I let myself get absorbed in the world i'm reading about, and if there's something that pulls me out of that world, even if it's just a comparison like that, it's going to jerk me out and I'm going to stare at it wondering what the hell I just read.

    The general idea is that you're reading the story from someone that was there. Whether that's a narrator or a character, that comparison is not going to be made if someone actually experienced these things.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I never do things like that. I always make the imagery appropriate to the time and place. Anachronisms and the like take the reader out of the dream-world you're setting up for them in your story. You might say the sorcerer's magic box was the size of a child's hand or something like that. Don't use the image of an iPhone in a medieval story.
     
  4. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    In general, I prefer it when comparisons fit with the setting, as minstrel and Thornesque said. I've read a few stories set in the past where the author dropped modern references as jokes, but it usually just came off as an annoying attempt to be clever. But if you wanted to give that a shot, go for it.
     
  5. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree with the above replies. It's good to keep your comparisons appropriate to the time. You could try using things in nature for comparisons if you're concerned about people not understanding the references. Although I personally think if someone is reading a book based in medieval times that they are a fan of that time period and have some knowledge of it. :)
     
  6. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    I agree with the others. I've found using steps for distance, breaths or heartbeats for time and body parts or common plants for sizes work just as well. But something you use from today may have a medieval equivalent.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think readers notice those kinds of things and it takes them out of the story.

    When I first started my book I used a lot of references from books, like 'Stepford Wives'. My protag had read lots of books from Earth and the references were consistent with that fact. But the readers didn't have that piece of backstory yet. They complained. So I took the references out. The story is fine without them, it was just a matter of finding alternative references.


    That's a good idea.
     
  8. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Do not do that--unless it is satire, or someone from the future, or someone from our world being sent to a different world, etc. etc..

    Otherwise, if it is just straight up medieval fantasy, don't mention things like that ever. It brings people out of the world.
     
  9. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Exactly what Jhunter said. When i am reading a story i try to imagine the setting, the characters, the epoch etc. If you bring an iphone in the equation i am likely to put the book down.
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I'm aiming for a real historical flavour, I like the challenge of using similies that make sense in a historical context. Every time I see a place where a cliche could be used, like "fought like a tiger", I try and think of an alternative that would make sense with the character and the period, e.g. "fought like a Micon", if those are a tribe of warlike warriors that have been mentioned earlier. You kill two birds with one stone (oops, need to replace that cliche)--keeping in period, and keeping the writing fresh.
     
  11. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to go for a Pratchett-type comedy, then I guess comparing a magic wand to a dildo would be great! :)

    If you feel something in your text sticks out and slaps the reader in the face, keep it only if your intention IS to be annoying and/or meta-textual - it could be fun, if done well, but it has to be deliberate and exceptionally thought-through.
    And I think this goes for every comparison, even completely mundane - think about it, try to understand what does it bring to your story, what you imply to the reader by using it in that particular place, etc. Think about the narrator, his point-of-view, his personality - even an omnipotent 3rd person narrator is still a narrator, a different persona from the writer. There should be a consistency in narrator's tone throughout the story, so if there are anachronisms they should be evenly present, not just random - randomness smells like laziness, amateurism - except, of course, your narrator is lazy and amateurish, and randomness is something you use methodically in your writing - which, again, is something that you need a lot of experience and talent to be able to do well.
     
  12. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A big honkin' DON'T. Unless the story is from a time-traveller's POV, then it'd make sense.
     
  13. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I try to keep consistent not only regarding the settings, but also the POV characters. If I'm writing a story from a child's point of view, even if it's third-person, I try not to use too complicated words and ideas, just those that she would understand.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it would make no sense at all, unless you've made it clear to readers from the outset that the narrator is recounting events that happened in the way-back past...
     

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