Monday, June 11, 2007

Historically speaking...

One of the main ways to create an authentically historical atmosphere, I've noticed, is the use of dialogue. It's also harder for some eras than it is for others. Periods such as Victorian times or the Middle Ages have definite, recognised speech patterns and slang, so dialogue can be recreated fairly accurately.

Periods such as first century Scotland are a bit more problematic. Not as much for the Roman characters, because there are plenty of opportunities to get a feel for how Romans of all classes spoke, from the letters of Pliny the Younger, to the Vindolanda writing tablets, to the Pompeii graffiti. A bit more formal than modern speech, even in everyday conversation, but simple enough to emulate (with a few tweaks to make it sound a bit more natural to modern readers).

The Caledonian characters, however, are more of a challenge to "translate". They left no written records, so I don't have the same kinds of sources I do for my Roman characters. I wanted to give them a sort of accent that would be different from the Roman one, to get across that these are two different peoples speaking different languages, even though I'm writing in English. The problem: we don't know what language these people spoke, though it was probably a Brythonic tongue, so a proper accent is out.

So I decided to give them an accent that would get it across that they're an ancient Scots' ancestor people. The question is, how much of an accent? I want it to be distinctive from the Romans' speech modes, but I definitely don't want them to sound like refugees from The Broons. I've thought about giving them a little of my own accent, which is a kinda watered-down Glasgow one. The pitfall there, of course, is that I don't want them to sound Glaswegian, and the Glesgae accent is very recognisable, and if I got carried away, I could easily end up with Calgacus and his war-leaders sounding like a bunch of neds frae Chewin' the Fat. I can see them shouting down from the summit of Mons Graupius now: "Get it up yees, Romans!"

Don't want to go down that road. (lol)

At the moment, my Caledonians have a sort of faux-archaic speech pattern going on. I suppose I should just stop thinking about it consciously and let the accent reveal itself on its own as I write. I've learned from previous projects never to force anything, especially not dialogue.

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