Period talk

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  • Period talk

    About to start a 19th century period script and am looking for a resource on American vernacular? Any good sites? Books?

  • #2
    Re: Period talk

    You should read the following authors: Melville, Poe, Hawthorne. At least read a handful of short stories by each. It's a tough vernacular, because, as has been the case in history, the vernacular is different with each region and, in the case of a major city such as New York, within the neighborhood of each ethnic group.

    Hawthorne is very much a Massachusetts man; Poe is associated with Baltimore and the mid-South; Melville's to a large degree a New Yorker, though with very strong New England roots.

    Can you tell us exactly where your script is set? I or others may be able to give you more precise advice.

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    • #3
      Re: Period talk

      You might want to try using Google with various key words. Don't give up - it might take a number of tries to find what you want.

      "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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      • #4
        Re: Period talk

        You're talking about a 100 year span and a large, developing country.

        Like Jake said:

        The class distinction of your characters makes all the difference.

        Does this take place out west or is it high society in Boston?

        Civil war soldiers? Slaves? Gold Rush society? Native Americans? Immigrants? Explorers? Government? Businessmen? Railroad (Chinese)? Farmers? Sooners? Cowboys?

        Each group would be different. (Or should be, anyway.)

        Along with Google, you should hit the nearest big library.

        Jake is also right on about New York. The difference in vernacular varied greatly by street. It involved class distinction, ethnic background, and length of time in the U.S. -- among other things.

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        • #5
          Re: Period talk

          And, to add to suze's comments, a native New Yorker can often tell what neighborhood a person comes from. I was born five minutes from the Bronx, and though my accent has been diluted by living for several years in England and New England, I have been very nearly rightly identified as a Bronx boy instead of a Yonkers lad.

          Brooklyn has different shades of accent. My old friend Bobby Di Falco of Bensonhurst had a very different accent from my friend and mentor John Morressy, who was raised in Flatbush.

          Developing an ear is vital to becoming a writer, whether you're an aspiring novelist or, especially, a screenwriter. Watching "The Sopranos" was vastly amusing to me, as the accents and the cultural references, even to call letters for radio stations, were dead accurate. (For instance, no New Yorker ever refers to the all-news radio station as WINS; we call it "1010 WINS", just as Paulie always does.)

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          • #6
            Re: Period talk

            ...Or watch Sleepy Hollow and take notes.

            -Derek
            Check out the results of the Valentine's Day short script contest in Writing Exercises forum

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            • #7
              Re: Period talk

              Originally posted by Jake Schuster View Post

              Developing an ear is vital to becoming a writer
              , whether you're an aspiring novelist or, especially, a screenwriter. Watching "The Sopranos" was vastly amusing to me, as the accents and the cultural references, even to call letters for radio stations, were dead accurate. (For instance, no New Yorker ever refers to the all-news radio station as WINS; we call it "1010 WINS", just as Paulie always does.)
              Not just for accents and such, but for keeping your characters from sounding alike, and making sure each one stays consistent.

              It's tough enough to do this with present day characters, never mind historical ones. And then, of course, the actor has to get it across, too. Have you ever seen Tony Curtis in his period movies? LOL

              The research you do to get the dialogue down will also help with your story -- adding particulars that will make it authentic.

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              • #8
                Re: Period talk

                Originally posted by suzeaa View Post
                Have you ever seen Tony Curtis in his period movies? LOL
                We shall go to de castle of my fadder.

                -Derek
                Check out the results of the Valentine's Day short script contest in Writing Exercises forum

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                • #9
                  Re: Period talk

                  Originally posted by dpaterso View Post
                  We shall go to de castle of my fadder.

                  -Derek
                  It really is funny.

                  Back then it was pretty much forgiven, but today not so much.

                  *See Tom Cruise in 'Valkyrie' stand out because of his California accent, and not in a good way.*

                  Many people say they don't understand why the actors in 'Valkyrie' don't have German accents, but that is NOT the problem. It didn't hurt films like 'Enemy at the Gate' that Russian accents weren't used. The problem is that Cruise doesn't blend in with the others. At least not in the trailer.
                  I felt the same way about Cameron Diaz in 'Gangs of New York'.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Period talk

                    I agree with you, suze. Sometimes a face is simply too modern for the period depicted, and Cameron is a perfect example of this, not to mention the state of her dentition, which was completely anomalous to the period depicted (same as with the prostitutes in "From Hell"; no one in the UK between 1302 and 1985 had teeth that white and that perfect, believe me).

                    It's slightly off-topic, but there's a great story about John Wayne in "The Greatest Story Ever Told". Apparently, director George Stevens asked Wayne to show more emotion when he delivered a particular line. He said, "Give it more awe, John." During the next take, Wayne changed the line "Truly this man was the son of God" to "Aw, truly this man was the son of God."

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                    • #11
                      Re: Period talk

                      Originally posted by Jake Schuster View Post
                      I agree with you, suze. Sometimes a face is simply too modern for the period depicted, and Cameron is a perfect example of this, not to mention the state of her dentition, which was completely anomalous to the period depicted (same as with the prostitutes in "From Hell"; no one in the UK between 1302 and 1985 had teeth that white and that perfect, believe me).

                      It's slightly off-topic, but there's a great story about John Wayne in "The Greatest Story Ever Told". Apparently, director George Stevens asked Wayne to show more emotion when he delivered a particular line. He said, "Give it more awe, John." During the next take, Wayne changed the line "Truly this man was the son of God" to "Aw, truly this man was the son of God."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Period talk

                        Fine, mock Mr. Wayne's heretical voice. I am more upset by his cowboy/swishy walk.

                        But then, gunslingers ... who knows what damage carrying all that deadly six-shooter iron did to the hips and lower back?

                        I recall the Tim Roth swordsman-assassin character in ROB ROY ... his deadly frilly efete grace etc.
                        sigpic
                        "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world -
                        that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves."
                        -Mahatma Gandhi.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Period talk

                          Another strategy in writing is to play very subtle patterns with rhythms. I've published a few novels in which none of the characters is a native English speaker, and by altering the way words fall in a sentence (especially for East Europeans, the culture I came out of) the writer can imply a foreign speaker, or a speaker of an earlier age.

                          Going too far with this can become comical, à la Monty Python (though, as Terry Jones is an established scholar in Middle English and the history of that period, they pretty much got it right), or make it sound artificial. But adding it as you would a dash of pepper to a stew, and you can convince an audience that this is indeed Madame Delorme or Comrade Kuznetsov speaking.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Period talk

                            Originally posted by tabula rasa View Post
                            Fine, mock Mr. Wayne's heretical voice. I am more upset by his cowboy/swishy walk.

                            But then, gunslingers ... who knows what damage carrying all that deadly six-shooter iron did to the hips and lower back?

                            I recall the Tim Roth swordsman-assassin character in ROB ROY ... his deadly frilly efete grace etc.
                            Can you please explain, then, why Greenwich, Connecticut-born George W. Bush walks the same way? Should he see a proctologist, maybe? Or maybe get a thinner horse. (P.S. It's commonly known that he's terrified of horses.)

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                            • #15
                              Re: Period talk

                              Originally posted by Jake Schuster View Post
                              Can you please explain, then, why Greenwich, Connecticut-born George W. Bush walks the same way? Should he see a proctologist, maybe? Or maybe get a thinner horse. (P.S. It's commonly known that he's terrified of horses.)
                              That's because horses can smell evil. lol



                              One of my story ideas down the line takes place in 16th century France and is based on a real person.

                              The research is great fun. The more I do, the more ways I can find how the story is very recognizable to today's audience.

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