Tips for Aspiring Writers 02: Learning the Language of the Era

by Angelique on September 28, 2010

man wearing steampunk gogglesMany science fiction and fantasy writers set their stories in environments that recall earth’s past; some stories are even set in the actual historical past. Recently several authors have asked me to review stories like these. The greatest challenge that each of these amateur authors faces is capturing the vocabulary, grammar, and most importantly,

the verbal flavor of the era.

The steampunk movement has inspired a ton of fiction set in a Victorian-like environment, but there are also stories from the antebellum period (United States,) the regency era (United Kingdom,) the Prohibition era, World War II and the 1950’s.

The stories take an awkward turn when writers try to emulate, but don’t really understand, the language of the era, and the way it was spoken by members of various professions and economic classes. There is only one way to learn this, and it’s time-consuming: by reading novels, plays and non-fiction of the era, listening to plays and films of these works that use the language of the era, and even taking literature courses.

Yes, I’m suggesting quite a lot of “homework,” but this homework will make the difference between a story that gets published and a story that lives forever on your hard drive. And besides, you really want to know how it was said, don’t you?

Have questions? Please ask! The comment section is below!


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