Monday, February 14, 2011

Authentic Regency arguments

Well, here we are at it again. Everyone involved in writing Regencies at some stage or other comes up against the argument - what is genuine Regency behaviour and wording, and what is not?

On the loops we complain about 21st century attitudes and words creeping in to our Regency books. There are two sides to this story.

I'm all in favour of genuine. I cringe when a so-called Regency miss gets 'feisty' and wants to go out in the dead of night to teach some young buck a lesson. If she was of good birth, she'd be too closely guarded to get the chance to go fluttering around on her own at night. If she was careful of her reputation she simply wouldn't go out asking for trouble - it wouldn't occur to her. But there are ways around scenarios like this. They just have to sound 'period.' And there must be a VERY good reason for her to flout convention. Not just a yearning for excitement.

I don't go a bundle on the covers of books where shirtless guys bearing marked resemblance to gypsies (the old tall, dark and handsome I guess) leer down the genetically enhanced nippled decolletage of simpering young women in the throes of passion. At least I think it's passion. Some of 'em look constipated.

But I am all for writing books that are exciting for 21st century readers to enjoy. That's what it's about. A writer is an entertainer.

So a Regency author has to tread a fine line between what you can get away with (or what your editor lets you get away with) and still have that authentic flavour of the early 19th century. You can't disappoint your readers. And you musn't have them chucking your book at the wall and saying, 'This is not Regency.' Do them the compliment of understand that many Regency readers are VERY knowledgeable about the period. They know the difference between a landau and a lorgnette. Or buckskins and a bufflehead.

I think any writer has to treat his/her audience with respect. As for Regency, it's a croweded Regency world out there at the moment and you don't want your reader defecting to a more authentic writer.

How to zap up the excitement? Don't look at me. I'm a dull, prissy writer. But I'd suggest a hero, heroine and villain out of the ordinary, or a setting that's really unusual like somewhere on the hero's Grand Tour or the cold Yorkshire moors. No more Almack's. And best, of all, I'd suggest a mystery or a crime with a villain that's not quite a villain. You know, a man who under other circumstances could easily be a friend, but he took a wrong turning. You can wring a lot of angst out of someone who is almost likeable.

I'll attach a picture (if it works) of a genuine Regency miss c. 1806. She's an interesting young lady. You get the impression there are lots of secrets behind the eyes. Most all, I like a heroine with guts. Nobody wants to read a book with no conflict or danger or excitement. And I think the young lady in the sketch has a great story behind her.