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A little medieval help please

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun January 30th, 2011, 3:01 pm

"SarahWoodbury" wrote:Honestly, I would just do your best and accept what comes. New research comes out all the time and that's what the 'fiction' in historical fiction is all about. Yes, there are things that drive people crazy, but what bothers one won't bother another. If you serve potatoes in England in the 13th century, that would be a problem, but just do your best and don't worry about it.

That said, do you have a writing partner? Someone who shares your love of history? I don't think you need an 'expert'--just someone who might flag certain issues that you might not know are issues and send you in the direction of getting better answers. We are all constantly learning new things. Sometimes you learn something in time to put in the book and sometimes you don't . . .


Sarah's got some good advice there. Honestly, as much as we pick, it really happens when the book/storyline is suffering and then things start jumping out. Sometimes, as in the case of the astrology use, we're just not sure.

I believe even the great Sharon Penman was caught out in one of her earlier books for putting one of her characters in velvet - but then that was a long time ago before we had that instant access to information on the net.

One thing that really drives me nuts is using words that weren't around at the time of the story, i.e. having your heroine pronounce someone ill with influenza hundreds of years before the word was in common usage. One of my friends at Goodreads was caught up when indubitably (sp?) was put into a medieval book. But then again, those last two examples were from books that neither of us enjoyed very much.

But definitely never ever throw potatoes into your story until history says they got there :o :) ;) :)
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Libby
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Location: Lancashire
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Postby Libby » Sun January 30th, 2011, 9:20 pm

I think the issue of vocabulary depends on the time the story is set. Up to around 1400 the upper classes would have spoken French and the native English speakers would have used a language incomprehensible to us today. Any speech in a medieval book is a translation from the original language. So, whilst 'influenza' would not have been appropriate -as the disease was not known then - other vocabulary can only be the best way to describe what was meant in Norman French or Middle English.
By Loyalty Bound - the story of the mistress of Richard III.

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SarahWoodbury
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Location: Pendleton, Oregon
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Postby SarahWoodbury » Sun January 30th, 2011, 9:48 pm

I'm with you on the fluidity of language. I wouldn't take issue with words like indubitably--it seems needlessly nitpicky and in truth, my characters are all speaking Welsh anyway (or medieval French) so it's silly to get hung up on individual word choice (for example, Saxons say 'eat', Normans say 'dine', but really, do we need to parse that in a novel?). A much bigger issue would be phrases like 'run the tables' or 'cover all the bases'. We use phrases like these all the time but they are out of place historically. You could say 'roll of the dice' but no baseball metaphors!
Last edited by SarahWoodbury on Sun January 30th, 2011, 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun January 30th, 2011, 11:29 pm

indubitably = sin duda in Spanish, an oft-used comment in renaissance writing. Although I would probably choose to translate it 'without a doubt' for my ordinary characters and 'indubitably' for the scholars whose language was rather highbrow.

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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Postby Alisha Marie Klapheke » Sun January 30th, 2011, 11:29 pm

Thanks SarahWoodbury, Misfit, and Libby. No worries. There are no potatoes in my story. Hee hee! And I'm with you guys about the language and all. I really am trying to keep my fretting to a minimum. It's just so tempting to keep double checking (triple and quadruple checking!) the research I've already completed. You know what I mean? As Misfit stated, the net is right at our fingertips and I can't keep my doubting hands away from it!

Oh and what is the story with velvet, Misfit? I remember reading somewhere that it was not around until later middle ages, but then I read somewhere else that it was around much earlier. What can you tell me?

And what do you guys prefer for clothing words? I tend to stick with gowns, surcoats, veils, wimples, belts, leggings, tunics, and cloaks for my mid 13th c tale to keep it simple. I want some flavor but not confusion. The politics are confusing enough for the average reader.

SarahWoodbury, I don't really have a history friend. : ( That so sad, isn't it? You all are my history friends! Most of the folks I hang with are guys into martial arts or moms who like The Bachelor. Ugh.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun January 30th, 2011, 11:36 pm

Oh and what is the story with velvet, Misfit? I remember reading somewhere that it was not around until later middle ages, but then I read somewhere else that it was around much earlier. What can you tell me?


RE: Penman I think it was Here be Dragons but I don't recall seeing it myself. I think she mentioned it on her blog but I could be wrong. I know Kathleen Woodiwiss had velvet in one of her medievals (as well as potatoes and tomatoes). Then again, it was a romance and written long before such info was so readily available.

I know we can't expect the same *language* as was really being spoken, it's just when something really modern pops in it can jar. Glad I'm not in the position of writing, I'd be scared to death as well. It can't be easy.

Clothing details can be great, but I don't want them overdone either. Bliaut drove us nuts in one recent read (Alison Weir's?).
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Postby Alisha Marie Klapheke » Sun January 30th, 2011, 11:39 pm

I'm reading Alison Weir's Captive Queen right now and the bliauts are driving me crazy! Stop italicizing them! I get it!

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun January 30th, 2011, 11:50 pm

"Alisha Marie Klapheke" wrote:I'm reading Alison Weir's Captive Queen right now and the bliauts are driving me crazy! Stop italicizing them! I get it!


That's the one then. I did my best to put that book completely out of my mind.

Repetition can be a dangerous thing. Sometimes us mere readers need to be reminded of some past happening, but don't club us over the head either.
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

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SarahWoodbury
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Location: Pendleton, Oregon
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Postby SarahWoodbury » Mon January 31st, 2011, 2:49 am

When you finish your book, I'll read it if you like. I know more about medieval Wales that perhaps is reasonable, but I've wandered into other medieval places as well. You can just email me privately (my email's on my web page).

G. Alvin Simons
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Location: Florida

Postby G. Alvin Simons » Mon January 31st, 2011, 10:23 pm

"Alisha Marie Klapheke" wrote: SarahWoodbury, I don't really have a history friend. : ( That so sad, isn't it? You all are my history friends! Most of the folks I hang with are guys into martial arts or moms who like The Bachelor. Ugh.


Alisha,
From my experience on here, you've more knowledgeable history friends than you realize. These people are incredible & there seems to be an expert in just about anything you might need. I've yet to see a question posed that wasn't answered in short order. Some of us just "title shop" the threads so you might include an idea of your question in the thread title to catch someone's attention. Good luck with your writing.

Alvin


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