Squawk Radio

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I don't know about the rest of the Squawkers writing historicals, but there are times when I am riveted with jealousy for contemporary writers—mostly when I'm reading a contemporary and the hero speaks. It's so much EASIER to do a man in "regular" speech than it is in "Regency-speak."

Here's an example. I happen to adore MaryJanice Davidson's books, so I just picked up a set of three sexy novellas published together as Under Cover. In a novella you must establish the character and feel of a man instantly because you need your page count for other things (a plot, a sex scene and a proposal, to be explicit). Here's a tough guy hero, having an introductory conversation with a barman. He's just found out that he didn't win the lottery:

"Son of a bitch," he sighed, and drained his drink.
"Maybe next week," Mark said.
"Maybe pigs will fly out of my ass."
"I have no idea," Mark said cheerfully, "but a man like you probably has several
disagreeable habits."
That made him crack a smile. Wiseass punk bartender. "I don't have to take this. My
left sock is older than you are."
"Most likely."

The list of things in that brief conversation that would be difficult to reproduce in a Regency setting, using a titled hero, are endless. Slang? Cursewords? Scatalogical references? It all comes down to rough male conversation amongst men. Christina could do it in her contemporaries; Lisa probably does in that Texas romance of hers coming out next year. I'm dying of envy!

In my opinion, there is no better way to establish your hero's identity and character than by having him in a conversation with a male friend. He can curse. They can insult each other – check out the Shakespeare Insult website. No question -- men were scratching themselves, and boasting, and carrying on generally two hundred years ago, pretty much the way they do now.

So…I'm going to take a shot at historical translation of MaryJanice's conversation, above. My Renaissance era hero just found out his horse lost at Epcot. I'd have to make this historical detail clear before the conversation, but a codpiece is the piece of leather or cloth that Renaissance gentlemen wore over their private parts, outside their clothing.

"Bloody hell," he sighed and drained his brandy.
"Maybe next time," Mark said.
"And maybe the Queen will tie a ribbon on my codpiece."
"There's a chance," Mark said cheerfully, "especially if she is struck blind and
could find such a wee peapod in the dark."
That made him crack a smile. Impudent young dog. "I should challenge you for that.
My codpiece itself is older than you."
"A distasteful thought."

So here's a challenge! Find a really male-flavored line in a contemporary romance you have lying around the place. Now translate it into historically-flavored language. Do a bit of antiquing on it. And Squawkers...you too!
Eloisa James, 9:00 AM