1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    My first attempt at using period writing to augment a setting. Feedback, please.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by mrieder79, May 5, 2016.

    This is supposed to be the journal of a Dutch explorer from the 17th century. It is unedited, first pass, so don't worry about spelling or grammar. I am interested in your overall impression.

    Are you convinced?
    What made it less convincing?

    __________________-

    Huber and Johan will, no doubt, find ample time to make light of this account as, in their trademsen's mind this foray of mine in naught but folly. Feeding the wishing well, they call it, melting guilders for slag. Mayhaps they are right, but I pray to St. George that the years and the observations recorded in the pages that follow will show the error of their thinking.

    It was in the week following St. John's Day that Captain Stijn De Wit, that decorated naval officer, returned from his renowned voyage to the shores of Abyssinia, Arabia, and New Holland. The bells of Old Church tower had scarcely tolled the noontide when a runner, jerkin unbuttoned and askance in a most unchristian way, petitioned my doorman that a ship had come into harbor with a menagerie and all the town was afoot to see it. Sensible of my deep interest in all things natural, my doorman admitted the snipe for an audience. When I was made to understand the nature of the event, I called for my horse trap as there was no time to harness the coach. We took the North Road...
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't enjoy the first paragraph, because it was far too difficult to follow, and seemed to be making heavy weather of a fairly simple idea. I know that you were striving for an authentic tone, and maybe you did that too well! 'Old style' writing is often convoluted and wordy. They didn't tend to spit things out very quickly on paper back then. Careful you don't become so authentic that modern readers just walk away after the first sentence.

    However, your second paragraph works really well. Despite the archaic language, it was obvious what was happening, and the tone made me smile. (Was that intentional? The unchristian vest...?) Events were moving in this paragraph, and it wasn't just a piece of philosophical musing, so maybe that's why the tone picked up. Anyway, I'm fine with that, and want to know what happens next.

    Maybe ditch that first paragraph for now? It's an introductory note telling the reader why this story is being told, and may not even need to be there. After you've finished the piece, maybe you can re-write it with more personality, and make it feel more like a story.

    Intriguing stuff. And congratulations for tackling it at all.

    Have you ever read Margaret Elphinstone's Voyageurs? She has set this story in a similar time period, with a first-person narrator. It manages to be both authentic and very readable. You might want to take a look at it. It's an excellent story, too, by the way.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2016
  3. Mocheo Timo
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    Mocheo Timo Active Member

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    I agree with @jannert about the first paragraph. The entire story can be quite esoteric, so making good attention-grabbers would be important.

    I did enjoy it - like I would enjoy a 17th century prose piece. The imagery in the 2nd paragraph does create an interesting tone. I wouldn't say the 1st paragraph is unnecessary though. It makes me see it more like a journal. So the job is done effectively. Just add some attention-grabber and you'll be fine.

    Keep up with the good work!
     
  4. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I liked it, I followed the first paragraph but thought it a bit verbose*. That might have been because I was willing it to be a punchy intro. To me, no middle sentence in it, although I did see it contained scene setting clues, and also some way of contracting the last sentence by a few words. That would polish it up. Then placing that on its own page as an intro maybe? (or was that the plan anyhow?).

    Second paragraph... I was away with it. In a good way, running alongside and enjoying the style. Convincing? To me YES, being a layperson; you'll be opening yourself up to the purists and knowledgable etymologists mind by taking this on. A case in point is The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (which I loved) that got a bit of a hammering by some critics.


    * a fan of verbosity here, but it's not the done thing I've been repeatedly told.
     
  5. storystitcher
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    storystitcher Member

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    I found the first paragraph harder to read than some genuine 17th century texts I've read - it comes across as very convoluted. I think part of it is psychological. I expect to have to read a historical text over a few times to get the full meaning. I don't want to do this with a novel. For this reason it irritates me when authors try too hard to copy the writing style of the period of their setting. It's a balance between getting a period feel to the prose whilst still writing in a modern and accessible manner, imo. You get the balance right in the second paragraph, which is excellent. You did a great job of setting the scene and I had vivid images running through my mind as I read it.
     
  6. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Thank you all for your feedback. Going over it again, I can see the difference between the first paragraph and the following ones. I also appreciate the encouragement. I have read a great deal of period writing and always wondered how I would do at it. It is an intimidating task.

    @storystitcher, your advice to inject enough vernacular to render a period feel without becoming tiresome to read was very helpful.

    Any more advice is welcome.
     
  7. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Have you read any actual journals or diaries written by explorers of the time? State Libraries might be a good place to find some. They may have even be digitally uploaded, or even typed out so they are easier to read but preserve the language.
     
  8. JoetheLion
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    JoetheLion Member

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    I'm going to buck the trend here and say I like the first paragraph, it felt very authentic indeed, and I especially enjoyed 'Feeding the wishing well, they call it, melting guilders for slag'. It puts across the narrator's feelings as a man setting himself against popular opinion in a way that I found simple and effective.
    There are few personal journals around from this period, but one that might be useful to you is the diary of Samuel Pepyes, which he wrote over ten years, during which he was an administrator for the British Navy. It's a wonderful snapshot of late 17th century middle class life, both personal and public, and is widely available.
     

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