Thursday, 6 October 2011

Language in Historical Fiction

I shared a very early part of the novel with a crit group last night. I received some very helpful comments and the question about language came up again. We talked about my first chapter which introduces us to one of the main characters. It also contains a letter written by her to some of the other significant players. The narrative is fairly neutral though I think I may change the voice a little later. It feels a little young if this book is to be for key Stage 3. The letter, though, is in a 1940s’ tone and even retains some of the German feel about it. I know this is going to happen even more so with the later letters. However in the ordinary narrative I have more modern English. I normally believe it should be one or the other – either go completely modern or try and replicate the language of the time. I remember seeing two adaptations of the same Molière play within two weeks. One was a fairly literal translation, the second sought to provide the same level of entrainment to a 21st century audience as Molière’s original audience would have enjoyed. I slightly preferred the latter. Both used a very different tone, but at least the tone was consistent throughout each one. Somehow, though, in my novel I feel that the mix is working. I still feel that Caroline Lawrence has got it just right in the Roman mysteries and my text is not too different from hers. Time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, I guess I just need to get the novel down. I reckon I’m just about half way

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