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Monday, November 5, 2012

Word Choice in Historical Erotic Romance

Hello Everyone,

I don't often talk here about the mechanics of writing or my own methods. But today I am moved to talk about it a little.
The sexual language used in my stories is something I have been very careful  to craft. I always refer to the Online Etymological Dictionary and/or the Oxford English Dictionary, online edition, for accurate information on the historical use of words. My editors also double check me about anachronisms, especially the sexual ones. I have been fortunate to have editors who value historical authenticity.

Did Regency Aristocracy Ever Use Slang? Click To Read More.
I don't intend for my novels to sound like period literature, like Nineteenth Century authors who were writing for general audiences and had to remain totally proper at all times. And to be clear, I am definitely writing erotic romance. I am not attempting to write traditional/mainstream romance novels or novels of manners. If I looked to period literature for inspiration on my characters' voices, I would look at the underground erotica of the period, not the published mainstream works.

I read a lot of private, personal letters and diaries from the time periods I write in where people used a more casual, intimate voice. This is how I build the patterns of language for my stories because I want them to sound natural. As I said, I don't want a voice like people in a play or the formal, flowery language of published literature of the era.

I read as much social history as I can, especially books and articles relating to sexual behavior and gender relations. I look for things that happen that were outside of the normal bounds of propriety. I try to learn how people who didn’t fit in made compromises and took risks to express and experience what they needed to express and experience.
I use what I find to expand on what is normally taken as traditional romance novel fare. I don't tend to write traditional romances and conventional heroines. In my stories, I want to explore the off-beaten path while still basing my ideas on actual history.

I just wanted to talk about these things and to give readers a better idea what to expect from my writing voice. I write to entertain and to create emotional experiences for readers. My hope is to connect with those readers who enjoy the type of historical world I create.

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  1. Interesting idea to read the letters from that period. Where do you find them?

    It is a little jarring when I read an historical novel and there is phrase or something that just seems like it doesn't fit with the period.

    Good for you for doing the extra work to make your books accurate.

  2. Hello Celeste,

    In genre fiction, like erotic romance, I feel that a "Twisty Twasery” or “Forsoothly” style historical voice is just not what I want for my own writing. I prefer to use a plain English style while avoiding any obvious modern slang terms. For example, there are certain sexual slang words that I avoid completely because, according to my research, those words were not used in that way, in that time.

    I think it is far better to make the writing accessible to modern readers and easily understood. I do use the Entomological Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary to avoid outright anachronisms in my work. And as I said, I do spend considerable amounts of time reading personal writings from the time to get a feel for how those people tended to express themselves. These personal writings are often much more like modern speaking than the published works of the time sound.

    Letters from any era can be found on Google Books, Web searches and excerpts of letters are featured in many works of social history and biography, both scholarly and popular works.

    Thank you so much for your reply. :)


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