Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More on Anachronism -- writing tip

Question: Thanks for the tip on anachronisms. Looking over my work, I don't really SEE anything. Could I be wearing blinders?

Answer: I doubt it. You never had any time and space issues when you were my student. Author Terry White could be correct when she observed the fellow-writer may be nit picking you to pieces out of her own feelings of inadequacy.

But do keep in mind John Gardiner's advice about the "dream of the story" and not waking the reader up by asking them to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

Another possibility might be the order in which the information is given. It's always a good idea to use a full name on first reference (unless it's a minor unnamed character like "the waiter"), and to get the physical description in when the reader first meets the character. It can seem a small thing, but if your reader envisions a blond on first reference, only to learn that the character is dark a few pages later, it can be really confusing. It wakes them from what John Gardiner calls "the dream".

Believe me, I've seen some real "wake up calls" even in commercially published material. Once I was reading a historical romance set in Elizabethan England. Obviously the author had written it first as a modern story, then set it back in time. There was a wonderful wedding scene. It had whole roasted pigs, jongleurs (what the hell is a jongleur, anyway?), lute players and troubadours singing soulful songs of wedded bliss. Then a minor character praised the cheese served in the wedding "buffet," saying to the bride's father, "Where did you get this wonderful cheese?" To which the bride's father replied, "Oh, I'm glad you like it, okay? We had it flown in special."

"Buffet" and "okay" would have been bad enough, as in Elizabethan times "buffet" was a cupboard and "okay" didn't come into use until the 19th century.. But "flown in?" How?

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