I received feedback this past weekend from one of the early readers. His thoughts really made me think, so I thought I would bring some of those thoughts here to the blog. In summary, his comments involved inappropriate voice from some of the characters… in terms of figures of speech, colloquialisms, and expressions (sure hope I am using “voice” correctly in this context!). Note that this isn’t the first time I have heard this comment. And I doubt it will be the last.
Generally speaking, the comments state that character X in the traditional middle ages setting Y “just wouldn’t say that”… where the “that” is a turn of phrase that the reader is familiar with from modern discourse. I have been very much in agreement with this idea in general. It would be distracting to have your contemporary fantasy realm heroes suddenly start talking like valley girls. You are taking the time to build an elaborate fantasy world, so why not also include language in your differentiators?
But this does raise a question: who’s to say what the common expressions are in a given fantasy world? What if, for example, the people of a given region DID in fact sound like, well, valley girls? If it worked for the internal consistency of the story and other world-building details, why not?
Of course, the answer is that the book would stink, that’s why. But there is a point in there somewhere. For example, where is it written that all American fantasy automatically means characters with english accents? And that therefore speak with conventional Brittish idioms?
So far, only one of the groups of characters I have come up with have Brittish accents and speak with the formal bent of the Queen’s english; the Bards. But the Falons, for example, seem to have Aussie accents, and Heartlanders have southern Kentucky drawls. So shouldn’t their speech reflect their regional differences?
Of course it should. But without distracting or confusing the reader by using words that automatically bring unwanted, out of place imagery into the story.
OK – enough for now!