Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anachronisms? -- writing tip

Question from the e-mail: Arline, someone in my new writing class said my story was "just full of anachronisms." I looked it up in the dictionary and it said something out of time or place, or meaning "old-fashioned." I write Regency novels. What else can they be but old fashioned? Pam.

Answer: Good to hear from you. Good news that you are writing again.

Anachronism can also mean something out of place in a story's time, when used in connection with writing, Pam.

I used to create anachronisms in my work all the time, mostly by not seeing the action clearly in my head. Here are some examples from my early work:

A person can't go upstairs, if they are already upstairs.

They shouldn't light a cigar, if they already have one going, either.

They shouldn't pick up the reins and urge the horses forward, if the scene was set in a billiard room. That's anachronism.

Also it can mean something out of step with the time of a story. A woman in a Regency novel should not wear a mini-skirt, OR slacks. But you know that, as you always did costume well.

It can also have to do with language use. If a story is set back in time, then the characters shouldn't use modern slang. Even "okay" didn't come into use until the mid-19th century. Characters in a historical shouldn't talk like people today. Mainly, they should stay away from slang. But they should still sound human. Read Jane Austin, who WROTE in the Regency period for ideas about dialogue.

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