I’m not entirely certain how the rest of the wenches find time to research and write their edifying blogs on fascinating subjects. When it comes my turn to blog, I’m usually musing on something much more pragmatic—like whether it’s better to leave off my glasses while doing housework. I used to scrub the house every weekend, but now that I wear glasses, I don’t notice the grime on the kitchen cabinets or the dust on
the TV so there’s not as much to clean. It’s a miracle!
But it’s these little bits of reality that eventually get woven into the characters I write. I make no pretense about it—I’m a character-driven writer. Fitz (WICKED WYCKERLY) was chasing a six-year old shouting catchfart long before I researched the inns on the road to Brighton. Blake (DEVILISH MONTAGUE) has been dueling in my head and Jocelyn stealing parrots before I knew where Wellington was in his battle against Napoleon that year. The characters and story almost always come before my research.
That doesn’t mean I don’t research at all. If I am to have a character using a pen, I will most certainly determine the date and origin of the first inkpen—and that’s no simple matter since a fountain pen was designed in 1702, an American pen patent was filed in 1809, and a British one that was half quill in 1819, but it wasn’t until 1884 that Waterman produced a truly practical fountain pen. While researching pens I might fall fascinated into quills and have a character produce odes to left wing feathers for their proper curve and crow feathers for their fine lines, cursing that the quills only last a week’s time.
BUT, and I fear this is a very large exception—I will become so enamored of my character saying something like gobsmacked that it will never occur to me to check the origin of that word. Inventions, yes, words, no. Once upon a time I had copy editors familiar with Regency terms who might catch my idiosyncratic straying, but now copy editors rarely recognize when I turn a contemporary phrase into Regency language. I have no idea if Regency people ever used the phrase stubble it, (although I suspect Heyer did) but it works nicely when I really want to say stuff it. Nary an eyebrow has been raised over term or phrase.
I suspect part of my irrational use of both historical and contemporary language is generated because too many editors have questioned the real language of the period. Most Americans can’t pronounce marquess correctly, and editors have fits over gaol. If I give them sapscull, they’ll just change the spelling, so I do it for them.
But if I madly combine the real and the unreal, does it confuse the reader? Do you enjoy odes to quills or would you prefer that the heroine call the hero a sapskull and get on with the story? And what character traits would you like to see portrayed in your favorite romance? Is near-sighted not romantic?