Monday, October 19, 2009
Guest Blogger Erica Vetsch: Confessions of a Word Addict
Thank you to JoAnne and Becky for having me here at The Edit Café. I’m so excited that my first novel, The Bartered Bride, is debuting with Heartsong Presents very soon. It’s been an amazing year since the contract announcement, going through the editing process, and preparing this story for release in November.
Both my content editor and copy editor have commented on my unusual vocabulary and word choices in my historical romances. One editor said, “I enjoy the words you come up with (how do you do that—surely these aren’t normal vocabulary words for you?!), but when I look them up, they’re always in context... Seriously, Erica, I’d like to know how you research period language. That’s a very cool element of your work. Maybe if you ever guest on Edit Café, you can tell us.”
So, thanks, Rachel O., for the compliment and recommending me to guest blog on The Edit Café.
I fully sympathize with the fictional character Anne of Green Gables, who used big words as a child and was thought to be odd because of it. I did the same. Anne was a word addict, and so am I. I love unusual words, words that look cool on the page, words that feel neat coming off the tongue. I don’t know if this is normal or not, (probably not) but when I hear an interesting word, instead of my brain conjuring up a picture of that item, my brain flashes a picture of the word on a page across my vision. The shape of the letters, the arrangement of the vowels and consonants.
Yeah, probably not normal. I just love words.
One of the reasons I love to watch sports is because of the jargon. I watch NASCAR and words like aero-loose and bump-draft and camber fire my imagination. Show jumping becomes surcingle and snaffle-bit and tiger-trap. Of particular delight to me were the words of curling: hog-line, hammer, and broomer. When the Winter Olympics comes up in a few months, I’ll be soaking in the spectacle...and the lingo.
I’ve carried this love of words into my research of period language.
I’ve always been an avid reader, especially of historical fiction. Historical fiction is full of great old words that look good on the page, evoke certain emotions and ideas, and really pull a reader into the time-period. I’ve been blessed with a good memory for unusual words (precious little else these days, it seems) and when I find a new word, I tuck it away into my vocabulary and wait for a great time to use it. And my family will attest, I do use unusual words in my everyday speech.
Besides reading quality historical fiction, when researching a particular time period, I also go to original sources of that day for words and phrases. Diaries and journals are great, for they give you the flavor and nuances of speech patterns of that time. They give you a peek into the minds of people who lived in the era you’re trying to portray.
I also love to read novels written in the time period I’m researching. I’m currently researching a series set in 1870’s Kansas at Fort Larned, and one treasure I found while touring the fort (which is a National Historic Site and I highly recommend touring it if you get the chance) was a list of books available at the post library at the time I’m writing about. Invaluable to read what my characters would be reading at that time.
But by far, my favorite way to garner words of a bygone era is reading newspaper articles and advertisements of the times. Journalists of the 1800’s were showmen and wordsmiths. Their language is flamboyant and unusual, and they constantly drew upon their communication skills to entice the reader into their stories. Journalists of frontier America were not all that far removed from the running patterers of Victorian London. Garnering the biggest audience meant telling the most interesting story.
And isn’t that true with writing fiction as well? I love an interesting story, and part of what interests me is unusual words, so I try to sprinkle them in whenever I can.
ERICA VETSCH is married to Peter and keeps the company books for the family lumber business. A home-school mom to Heather and James, Erica loves history, romance, and storytelling. Her ideal vacation is taking her family to out-of-the-way history museums and chatting to curators about local history. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College in Secondary Education: Social Studies. You can find her on the web at www.onthewritepath.blogspot.com
About The Bartered Bride:
Jonathan Kennebrae is furious when his grandfather informs him that his future has been decided. He will marry Melissa Brooke or be disinherited. Jonathan has invested years of his life in Kennabrae Shipping, but heaven help him if Grandfather decides to take it all away for this.
Melissa, too, is devastated when her parents make their announcement. As little more than a bargaining chip in her father’s business maneuvers, she feels her secure world slipping away. Engaged to marry a man she has never met—someone “considerably older” than herself? What have her parents done?
Can Jonathan and Melissa find a way out of this loveless marriage, or must they find a way forward together?
Editor Du Jour JoAnne