I’ve been addicted to reading as long as I’ve been able to read, and before that it was having things read or told to me. I read many books, mostly fiction, but a lot of non-fiction too, the latest n-f book has been ‘The Great Flood: Travels Through a Sodden Landscape’ by Edward Platt. It would be fascinating to anyone, but since I have lived in two areas which have been much stricken by too much water, Somerset and Cambridgeshire, it was particularly interesting to me. I learnt a great deal about the actual floods the author writes about, about what flooding means, how and why it happens, the results of inundation, and attempts to stop too much water in the wrong place harming people and their property.
I read more fiction, as I’ve mentioned, sometimes several books in a week, and I learn from novels too – for example, a series of books by Roz Watkins which I wrote about a few months ago, really brought the Derbyshire countryside alive for me. I’ve been there several times for various holidays, but she through a new light on places I’d visited. Her writing also gave me an insight into the importance of vivid and yet subtle descriptions of location as a backdrop to plot. However, two books which I’ve just read/am in the process of rereading, have taught me something in a different way.
I have mentioned the very excellent Chris Speck before, and the books he has written – which if you haven’t read them yet, you are missing a treat and should remedy that as soon as you can! His latest novel ‘Richie Lad‘, follows on from a previous book, ‘The Great Frost: Three murders, a village lass, and a highwayman’. The other book which I’m in the process of reading, ‘A Rising Man’ by Abir Mukherjee, is very different; it is set in India in 1919, not Yorkshire in the eighteenth century, and it’s a police procedural whereas ‘Richie Lad’, although concerning crime, is not!
So what is it about these two brilliant books which has really struck me, and made me think about the way I write, and in fact, has given me a lesson in one aspect of some of my stories? Although both of them are set in the past, they are written in a completely current and thoroughly 21st century style, and in particular, the dialogue which makes no attempt to replicate how people in the past might have spoken. No ‘thee’s’ and ‘thou’s’, no ‘wouldst/shouldst/goeth/thinketh’ – the conversations are completely contemporary. This happens in historical films and TV dramas now, so why shouldn’t it happen in books? It seems strange to me – having read these books where the characters are realistic and spring off the page as clearly as if they were in front of me, – that a novel or story written now, might have this convention of attempting to replicate historic ways of speaking.
I haven’t written any novels set in the past, although in some of my Radwinter stories, the main character Thomas reads letters and other documents from previous centuries, and I must admit, when I wrote them, I did change my style, to make my writing more formal. However, thinking about it now, the few times this happened, I was trying to emulate the character of the person writing and I was thinking more about how I imagined they might write, rather than the date of when they were writing.
Here is a link to Chris’s books:
and here is a link to Abir’s:
and to Roz: