Welcome to a new series, in which I talk about why historical fiction does not have to sound old-fashioned, the differences in writing styles, and how to construct dialogue in historical fiction. Today’s post will only be the introduction, so let’s get into it!
P.S. This post is going to be half-opinion, so take everything with a pinch of salt.
I personally don’t see the need for historical fiction to be written in an old-fashioned style. It’s one thing if that’s your personal style – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – but it’s another thing entirely to expect all historical fiction authors to do the same.
In regards to dialogue, characters obviously shouldn’t be saying, “Cat’s pajamas!” in 1630 Manhattan – ‘scuse me, New Amsterdam, the English didn’t have it till 1664 – because ‘Cat’s pajamas’ is a term straight outta the jazz age.
(rabbit trail: ‘Istanbul’ is now playing in my head…)
But what about words that were first recorded in the 19th century yet are commonly decried as being too ‘modern’? For example, words like ‘yeah’ and ‘yep’ both came into use during the latter half of the 19th century.
There are also words that, while in existence long before our time, shouldn’t be used in the way we use it today. ‘Nice’ once described a person who was foolish or stupid1, up until somewhere in the 18th century. That’s when it changed to how we use it today.
There are other reasons I believe we shouldn’t expect other writers of historical fiction to make their story sound old-fashioned. Right now, I only have a couple of ideas and will go into more depth about them during the month, including what I’ve already mentioned.
Part II: Different writing styles
Part III: Show vs Tell + Description
Part IV: Constructing Dialogue.
Anyway, that’s all for today! Lemme know what you think!
References: A History of English In Its Own Words / Craig M. Carver.