Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 313 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author/publisher,
Dane F. Baylis



If you've read any of William Shakespeare's plays or poetry, the early translations of Homer's, ILIAD, or the works of Virgil, or even the mid 19th or early twentieth century literature of the British Empire or the United States, you've probably been a bit put off at first by the formal, stilted nature of the language. But why?
If you're from the U.S. you've no doubt read these in your native language, right. But it was an English of academia. A formal, highbrowed manner of writing that, at times, can seem divorced from the very language you grew up with. Even in the works of the early to mid-twentieth century there can be a colloquial turn that makes it difficult to get into the meat of the story. But let's go back to the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon for a moment.
When Shakespeare was writing, it wasn't with the thought of producing high minded theater that was going to last through the centuries. He was, in fact, writing in the language of the day to ENTERTAIN the attendees in the Globe Theater so that he could earn enough to pay his cast and crew and cover his bills. Much of the speech that is present in KING LEAR, TWELFTH NIGHT, or HAMLET is actually peppered with Elizabethan slang. If he had resorted to the language of academia or the dialects and customs of a couple of centuries before, he would have lost the attention of the commoners in the house, and probably a good number of the merchants and nobles, as well.
What's my point? I hear an awful lot of poetry and read a good bit of prose being written by budding literati. If there is something that will get my attention ten seconds ago, and put my teeth on edge instantly, it's when the syntax being used is that of bygone times. I can tell the period this person has done a lot of their reading in and who were, in general, their greatest influences. But let's go back to the example of Shakespeare.
His work has stood the test of time because it communicated so well to its time. So many people were exposed to, and ENTERTAINED by, his work that they came to see his plays again and again. They passed this enjoyment on to their progeny and this led to the view that his work was timeless, and eventually classic.
This should be the goal of every writer. After all, what is writing but the communication of information. If you do it in the poetic or fiction formats it must communicate information about characters, settings, time, emotions, and so many other things, in a way that is easily grasped by your audience while conveying the plot or theme, while also ENTERTAINING the reader! If it becomes necessary for them to run for a dictionary or some period reference every other line, then you're not communicating with anyone but yourself.
Even if you are writing a period piece, anything outside of dialogue should be presented in modern idiom and usage. If the exchanges between characters become too riddled with dialect, pull back. This goes just as well for those who write fiction that takes place in some distant future. Of course, the best way to find out if you've overdone it is to ask someone other than your bff or Mom to read your work. If the response is a puzzled inability to relate back what the story was about, you missed the mark.
The same goes for poetry. Your writing partner or present love interest may think that bit of flowery to the point of funereal poesy is the sweetest thing since Byron, but the average reader is going to wonder what the hell you were on at the time. The modern reader or listener wants the words they are familiar with so that the imagery is immediately, or damned near, within their grasp. Anything over the top and they're out the door. It's all part of developing a unique, but recognizable, voice.
Just some helpful hints from your Uncle Dane.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write in the present day, please!
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Dane F. Baylis

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