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Thread: Bit of dialogue

  1. #1
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    Bit of dialogue

    Whee! I'm first.

    The following passage is from a story set in a typical fantasy setting - vaguely Medieval European, but not Earth, so no need to be married to historical facts or cultural details. I'm curious whether my use of more contemporary colloquialisms is too much for the fantasy reader to accept. (The reason I'm doing this is that the supposedly archaic forms of speech used in most fantasy novels are about as close to how people actually spoke back in the Middle Ages as my writing here is to Sanskrit. I just don't want to bother with using the same hackneyed faux-old-timey-speech, and naturally I don't want to write in Old English either.) So please let me know if any of this is too jarring:

    Carnahn tugged subtly at his swordbelt to move Reacor’s hilt to an ideal position. “This had better not go south, Anaxis. I’m not the patient man I used to be.”

    Anaxis giggled. “You killed a tavern server once because he brought ham instead of roast beef.”

    “That was an excuse. I actually ordered the ham. Take the lesson.”



  2. #2
    Senior Member Lea Zalas's Avatar
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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    I like it, John. Reading an entire book's dialogue written in Old English is very time-consuming. Not that I don't enjoy reading it occasionally, but most books don't really need it.

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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    I think you 'just need to make a call' John.

    Shakespeare is not easy to read when you first start, however, once you read a few pages, you (or is that just me?) get into it.

    I'm posing the same questions for my own MS1. It calls for 'Olde World Medieval' for at least 1st 1/3 of the MS and some Latin, but dad's opinion is that I'll confuse readers as there is a lot of history and A LOT of characters too.

    I see his point and I agree in principal; but I'm sticking to my guns. It's not Shakespeare, its not even Tutor-Speak; its just the phrasing that is more 'Olde World' - and in point of fact, is not dissimilar to how I speak now; so its my 'true' voice.

    As I say, my call was to stick to my gut instinct on the sound/voice of the MS as I hear it my head. You have the luxury of creating your own 'Medieval-Speak' being set on another world. Just go with it - revision may or may not change it, for now go with your gut and see what happens.
    if the wine is sour – throw it out

    SatyricalRaven

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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    Thanks for your thoughts. Reading the above over, I might use a different phrase than "go south." Also, unrelated to the dialogue issues, I'm going to exterminate the superfluous "subtly." Isn't it grand to be this obsessive over tiny ****ing details? Sometimes being a would-be writer is a delicious curse.

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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    Trust me John, toally understand the 'obsessive over small details' - I spent on average 4-5 hours and many revisions over one 10 word phrase - which needed to be in English & Latin.

    I changed one word about 17 times.........and at least 50x that changing back and forth (yes it was crazy I know!) and I still am not sure if I selected the correct word in both English and Latin! lol.
    if the wine is sour – throw it out

    SatyricalRaven

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    Yes, I think it's fine except for that idiom "go south". Modern idioms will destroy whatever fantasy/medieval setting you build.

  7. #7
    Cat
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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    With archaic speech, I think the trick is to catch the flavor, which is as much a matter of syntax as vocabulary.

    "Go south" is actually a fairly old expression, at least back to the Civil War, and perhaps earlier. I wouldn't be surprised if it's origins were ancient, having something to do with death. I can readily accept it in this context.

    Have you ever seen Shakespeare in Love? Tom Stoppard does a wonderful job of suggesting Shakespearean English which the reader can still understand. He uses period vocab that we either still know or is intuitive. When the character "Shakespeare" derisively calls someone "a baggage", you get it. Same with some grammatical constructions like double negatives (which were use for added emphasis back then and were considered grammatically correct) or comparitives like "the more better of the two", sort of thing. I think it's quite an art but also quite doable if you're willing to put the time into it.

    In short, it reads fine to me, but I suggest looking at the grammar and word order end of things.

    For some reason, "I'm not the patient man I once was" strikes me as more archaic. "Brang" instead of "brought" - still completely comprehensible to the modern reader and so on.

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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    Carnahn tugged [s]subtlyl[/s] at his swordbeltPeriod. [s]to move Reacor’s the hilt to an ideal position[/s] Unnecessary . “This had better not go [s]south[/s] wrong, Anaxis. I’m not the patient man I used to be.”

    Anaxis giggled. “You killed a tavern server once because he brought ham instead of roast beef.”

    “That was an excuse. I actually ordered the ham. Take the lesson.”
    Nice little snap at the end of it.

    Stan

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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    Thanks, Stan. I changed "go south" into "turn into a shambles" before I saw your post - think we're working in the same direction on that.

    Regarding the tug at the swordbelt, without the added clause I'm worried it will just read like it's a tic or a random movement. What do you think?

    Hmm...a poster upthread suggested "once was" instead of "used to be"...hmm...have to think about that one.

  10. #10
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    Re: Bit of dialogue

    Regarding the tug at the swordbelt, without the added clause I'm worried it will just read like it's a tic or a random movement. What do you think?
    Just the mention of the sword is sufficient to establish the menace you want. It's subtle. If you want more snap to it, change to something like "...rested his hand on his sword hilt." Or you could move the line down, to precede "That was an excuse..." That would ramp up the effect.

    Stan

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