How my characters speak as compared to the narrative

by Jacob
(Fouke, Ar, USA)

Question: I am writing a book that takes place in the medieval period, swords, bows, knights, kings that type of thing. I have done research on how they spoke and words they used or didn't use and I found they didn't use contractions. So in my dialogue I am not using any contractions, but is using them in the text OK? Or should I be contraction free for the entire book?

Answer: I would think that should depend in part on what narrative mode you are using and who your narrator is.

In first person narration, your narrator may be a character in the story world and so would write as he/she would speak or perhaps even more formally. In that period, only educated people wrote, so one would expect written language to be more formal. Of course, you could choose to make the narrator a young or only partially educated person.

On the other hand, your narrator may be a historian or someone writing in a later period about events that happened long ago. In that case, you would still match the narrative style to the personality of the narrator.

In third person narration, the narrative style should fit the personality of the story. That's where you must decide if you want the style and voice to accurately reflect the period and the story world, or perhaps use a voice that modern readers can relate to better.

In YA or popular fiction, it works well to strive for something in between. Perhaps give enough of the flavour of the historical setting to give the reader the experience of being transported to the past, but at the same time keep the story accessible, so that readers don't feel they have to struggle with the language in order to follow the story.

Of course, if you are writing literary fiction, your readers are more likely to want authenticity and be up to the challenge of reading a period style.

I know I'm not giving you a clear "yes or no" answer, but it's the kind of question that can really only be answered with "depends..."

Comments for How my characters speak as compared to the narrative

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Nov 23, 2014
by: Jacob

I expected exactly what you posted and it helps. My book is a fiction, fantasy world, YA, third person. Limited omniscient I think is what its called. It follows 1 of 3 characters but also gives insight of the supporting characters around them to some extent. What I have researched about words and the way people talked in the time my book is based is full in the dialogue, but in the narrative I use modern words and structure to accommodate readers of today. I never thought about that being an issue until I read some similar posts on this site. Thank you for anymore advice!

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