Why am I thinking about Scotland? Many reasons—it’s beautiful there, I love the Scots accent, I would love to visit there again but don’t see it happening anytime soon, etc., etc. But at the moment, it’s mostly because I’m working on a Regency-era mystery where the hero is a Scot.
He was inspired by a waiter I met in Scotland. Many writers use pics of celebrities to visualize their characters, but I’ve never done this before. My characters are just vague images in my mind. But this waiter was so appealing—everything from his darkish hair to his medium build, the twinkle in his eye, and of course his brogue—that I couldn’t resist making my hero in his image, so to speak. Of course, my hero lived 200 years ago, so I was looking at him through a Regency-era lens.
The thing is, I’m not sure I can get into the skin of my Scots hero and write him properly. What does it take to write a convincing character of a nation or culture with which one is somewhat unfamiliar? Add to that the historical context, and it’s even more complex.
I don’t have much problem writing English characters. I grew up in Canada and have lived in the US for many years, but my ancestry is mostly English. One set of grandparents came from London. I lived in England for a year as a child. I read a lot of British literature growing up and still do. I’ve also read a lot of historical novels, many of which take place in Britain. So writing a British character in the Regency era feels reasonably natural to me.
Not so a Scot. So I’m reading up on Scotland from many angles. I need to learn more about Scotland’s history, which I have sampled mostly through novels. I also read novels about present-day Scotland—I’m a big fan of Ian Rankin’s mysteries. I’m trying to learn some Scottish vocabulary—but this presents another problem. How much of an accent or vocabulary is the right amount, imparting the flavor of the character’s speech without making it hard to read? It’s a difficult balance to achieve.
I hope you like the pics. (No, I don’t have one of the waiter.) Today I’m giving away a book and a pair of socks. Yes, socks. I was going through stuff in my closet and found two pairs of socks I bought ages ago for giveaways, and then forgot about. For a chance to win one pair (your choice) and one of my books (again, your choice), please leave a comment. If you know of authors whose books really bring Scotland alive for you, please recommend them—contemporary or historical, romance or mystery or whatever. Good non-fiction about Scotland would be welcome, too. And if you prefer more or less of an accent or vocabulary in a book (Scots, Irish, Cockney, French words and cadence, whatever), tell me about that, please.
(All the pics were taken by me or my husband. In fact, here I am at Castle Urquhart, devouring one of the many placards. I can spend hours and hours at historic sites…)
And here are the socks: