MANUSCRIPTS NEED FLAVOR

My first novel, The Price of Peace, is set in 13th Century Wales. I had read a plethora of novels set in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland of that time period and thought I was “up” on the lingo. Ha!

When I began working on the manuscript, I used a lot of YE and DINNA and some contractions like no’ instead of not. I’d seen those in a ton of stories.

That caused me a lot of work later when I had to go back through and remove the majority of them to make it an easier read. And, really, that is what we want most–for our readers to enjoy the book, which means it has to be smooth. If they have to stop regularly to sound out or figure out what the character is saying because they have a thick brogue, then you’ve taken the out of the story and that’s not good. You want them to inhale your words and take the tale in so fast that they can’t get enough quick enough.

The rule of thumb is “Set the tone then use good English and grammar with occasional references to the brogue, or colloquial.”

And do your research. When I put the first draft of my WELSH manuscript in front of the WELSH historian, the first thing he said was, “Well, lass. You’ve got this entirely too Cornwall.”

He explained that the YE’s were more appropriate to ENGLAND at the time. He also argued the map that is in the book. Not in accuracy, but in relevance. I show the IRISH SEA above the land mass of Wales. It’s really there. But the Welsh (him) were not real fond of the Irish and he didn’t understand why I’d want to mention them at all. Even if the sea is called THE IRISH SEA.

But, I figured my initial readership would be American like me. Therefore, needing a map to get a clue as to where the story took place. To Americans, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland are pretty close together, like little states. But to the Europeans, they are completely different COUNTRIES. DUH. Are you laughing at me, or with me?

Okay. I knew they were countries. But the way of thinking is different, if you get my drift.

When I lived in Nevada, we used to go 20 miles one way to get our gas tank filled up. Down the road usually referred to many miles. It was a way of life. We didn’t even think twice of going the distance.

Now I live in Missouri, and it’s 2 miles to the gas station. Going 10 seems like we’re visiting a whole other country. That move helped me to “get” the difference in thinking. Distances in that novel of mine became more real to me when I realized they were walking or on horseback. That 20 miles was a long way and 50 was a serious journey.

My second novel, Courting Disaster, had a different publisher and editor. And many of the same sort of things were addressed in the process of bringing that book through edits and into print. Time for travel had to be counted and figured. Contractions discussed. In the end, I just let the editor do it how she wanted and stopped arguing small points. The flavor is there. But she had her own way of seeing contractions and how they spoke (preconceived ideas?), and even the layout of the castle in her head. She didn’t get the concept of alcoves versus rooms. She says she does but she changed wording to put people in rooms with doors open. She saw ante-chambers that I didn’t, and put them in. The logistics of whispering versus speaking loud enough for a voice to carry became a problem.

You have to think things like that through. You can’t build a fire in an ante-chamber of a bedroom and expect it to heat the bed area. Not in an old castle in cold stormy weather. Think of the logistics. Envision the place. And then describe enough to get the reader in the room with your people–but don’t put so much in there that they skip whole paragraphs.

Rule of thumb: Keep descriptions to no more than 5 lines, and preferably down to 3 at a time.

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