Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott (1820)

I've read this novel twice now for two reasons. One, it's a classic that demands repeated reads, and two, my first manuscript was influenced by this period, as is my sequel-in-progress. So I wanted to immerse myself in the cast's diction again. 

Most writers of fantasy fiction set their stories in a period that mirrors our own middle ages. Yet despite their adherence to its form of government (monarchies), its mode of transportation (horse, mule, wagon, carriage), its architectural structures (castles, towers, temples), its tools of war (sword, spear, bow), and its dress (tunics, robes, bodices, armor), when it comes to dialogue, these same writers tend to assign their characters the contemporary colloquialisms of today. This has always struck me as lazy. Granted, creating dialogue that approaches the lexicon of a begone era is a challenge. But ever since reading the gracefully worded dialogue in Donaldson's Covenant Chronicles, Ben-Hur, Don Quixote, The Iliad, as well as Ivanhoe, I've been enamored with that lofty, archaic speech and have wanted to reproduce something similar, what I refer to as the pseudo-authentic, namely not the diction people of such a period spoke (since we can't know for certain), but certainly something we as readers come to expect from knights and courtiers of a similar age. I'm convinced that contemporary writers of this genre who dismiss this important element do their characters and their setting a disservice. Five out of five stars. PG-13

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