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More Handy Britpicking Tips - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
More Handy Britpicking Tips

These remarks follow on from my last, in which I tried to show, rather than to tell, how to create a template for an English family, and discussed the texture of Potterfic in terms of knowing, say, your villages from your hamlets. Or your Ophelias, for that matter.

The overarching rule of advice I would give, is, Get a Britpicker. For overseas Potterfen, this may be more important than an editor (‘beta’, to you lot. Sorry, but I dislike that term, even as I revere the work done by editors).

That said, these tips may be of use, being straight from at least one end of the horse. (And may be of use to Brits and Britpickers, as well, as it’s perilously easy not to realise just how much your overseas writer, whom you are assisting, not only doesn’t know, but doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.)

For example: even in town, and even in towns, the English – wait. Let’s look at that sentence again: ‘even in town, and even in towns’. What possible distinction could I be drawing? This: that going up (and it is always up) ‘to town’ is a way of saying, ‘going to London’, whilst of course ‘towns’ in the second instance means precisely what it seems, and refers to urban areas. Right, then, as you were. Even in town, and even in towns, the English walk far more often, and much further, than do, apparently, Americans, and in the country, they walk (or ride) a good deal. In really rural districts, of course, a motorcar may be indispensable to get from one place to another, but certainly in the South and Southwest, a ’bus is much more likely to be most people’s means of motor transport in the deepest countryside.

Does this suggest anything to you? It ought to do. To a really conscientious Potterfic writer, it damned well ought to suggest, ‘Once I have decided where to place my characters, other than at Grimmauld Place, Hogsmeade, or Little Whinging’s High Street, I want to get on to the internet and look at local ’bus schedules!’

In fact, the Net Is Your Friend. Immeasurably so. If you wish your fictive world to have a tactile quality, if you want to ensnare the senses, use the Web. Southern Life, originally Hampshire Life but now covering West Sussex, Surrey, Berks, Hants, Wilts, Dorset, and the Isle of Wight, has brief potted histories of the villages in those counties, some potted parish church histories, and, quite often, photographs. Quite often, also, potted histories and various photographs are available through county council and local tourism websites. Many villages, or their churches, or both, have websites: just at random, I can recall websites for Potterne, Shrewton (and its church), Swallowcliffe, Crockerton, Shipton Bellinger in Hants, Downton, Sutton Veny, Chitterne, Freshford and Limpley Stoke in BANES, Shepton Mallett in Somerset, Steeple Ashton, Compton Bassett, Minal, Ramsbury, Bishopstone, Barford St Martin, Durrington, Bromham, Lyneham, Castle Combe, Over Wallop and Nether Wallop in Hants, Ottery St Mary in Devon, and most of the parish churches in the Nadder Valley (only on a C of E website would the parish pages give you, in addition to a potted history of the town and the church both, a ‘where to go’ entry on the local pubs).

Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale, and many of its local (pardon the pun) branches have websites, so your characters can at least drink real ale down the local when they’re out having a piss-up. The RSPB site can tell you what birds are in the place you’ve set your characters in, the Wildlife Trust can tell you what the terrestrial fauna is, and GENUKI can give you typical regional surnames for the unsuspecting Muggle neighbours. Streetmap, Multimap, and the Ordnance Survey can guide you, and town websites and online directories can help you find the shops (UpMyStreet is brilliant at this, and there is all the difference in the world between ‘Aunt Petunia distrusted the local shops’ and ‘Aunt Petunia bitterly complained of having to go to Rite Price to find even an excuse for a decent local greengrocer and having to send or all too often go all the way to Slough, to Woodlands Bakery, for proper bread and to Blanchards the butcher, and to Iver for a farm shop and as far as Windsor to find a reliable fishmonger, O’Driscoll’s’). Also on the Web are the Ofsted stats, so you can match your OCs (offspring, Muggle neighbour children, and so on) to the proper school – and note that this can be tricky. (For example, Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar School, in Salisbury, is actually a full 20 points better in A Level Points Per Student than is Marlborough, and is only about 40 points away from pegging level with Eton.)

When you know where your people are, what they eat and drink, where their nearest greengrocer, fruiterer, off-licence, butcher, and fishmonger are, where the children are schooled, when the ’bus and the train are due and how late they are this time, what the name of the parish church they don’t attend is, and how far they have to stagger from the pub to their front garden, you’re an author.

As long as you even then remember to run it past a reliable Britpicker, of course.

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Comments
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: October 31st, 2005 02:22 am (UTC) (Link)

When in doubt, google it out!

Yes, now the net resources are amazing. As an overseas fandomer (over North Sea rather than Atlantic, but still) I can't but applaude.
If I'm allowed a self-congratulatory note, I can say that thanks to the whole Editor-And-Britipicker Movement I made some progress - from my earlier attempts being barely checked once, to the latter ones being quite well researched, including the shop names (and also the name of the boss the Foreign Office during HP timeline for my cat-story. Still remember the guy was called Rifkind :)).
I've alwys been a Britophile, but still I learnt quite a lot of "lower-level" namely local histories and cultures of Britain, the very things you pay a lot of attention to, since I started playing with HP. That's - IMNSHO - the greatest achivement of JKR.
I always wonder who's in worse situation with regard of Brit-picking, me or an American fanficcer. Language question aside, I have the advantage of being (possibly) more aware of my lack of knowledge, I rather won't take too much for granted. But they share an enormous wealth of cultural background, hitory and literature mostly, are much immersed in the same culture (even if it's more the other way round, now, with Brits being flooded with US culture).
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 31st, 2005 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: When in doubt, google it out!

"But they share an enormous wealth of cultural background..."

We don't, actually. Separated by a common tongue, as the prophet said. I refuse to be Britpicked, because I can't stand the word "snog". I simply channel Georgette Heyer, and let it go at that.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 31st, 2005 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, But....

You are unique.

And you don't need Britpicking.

I was addressing those who do; I know full well that genius, m'dear, plays by its own rules. I'd no more lesson you than someone would attempt to teach theory to JS Bach.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: November 1st, 2005 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes, But....

Oh, do spare my blushes, sir!

I have the sinking feeling that if a person has to be told that a fic needs Britpicking, then it isn't going to help, because this is the same kind of person who feels persecuted when their grammar is corrected. If you can't write the English language, you aren't going to be able to write English culture.

Or there'll be so much relentlessly Britpicked ornamentation that the fic might be easier to read in the original Americanese.
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: November 2nd, 2005 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes, But....

If you can't write the English language, you aren't going to be able to write English culture.

While it may be true about many of American - or may be I'm just prejudiced here - I think us guys from outside English-speaking world are in bit diferent situation.
Using my own example (who's else, after all ;-)) I rather enjoy being Britipicked, because I got my English from many sources and it's terribly mixed, neither this nor that (one Candian advised me to declare my English as Canadian, as they mix Brit and US versions, too). So I'd rather have it straightened out.

Nobody knows better than you that I'm quite unable to write proper English (and being not a native is THE LAMEST EXCUSE EVER) - ooops... Well, actually you're right. In this moment I'd have to run into argument that I'm able to write the English culture - which would be a bit ridiculous. Right, I'm leaving this here - instead of simply deleting it - just to signal that with Britipicking we need, I think, to recognize three classes of authors: Bitish, not-Bitish English speakers and finally the rest of the world. They situations and problems are different.
And yes I've seen stories so "Britisized" that they were unreadable.

And I second Wemyss's comment about the genius, who doesn't need Britpicking. Yours fall into yet another category: the stories which re unique on their own and the their brilliancy is above dialectical differences.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 2nd, 2005 04:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Three Classes.

'...with Britipicking we need, I think, to recognise three classes of authors: British, not-British English speakers and finally the rest of the world.'

You may be on to something, old man.

Hmmm. Suggestions for solutions, anyone?
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 5th, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

How Far South?

Because I've noticed that American Southerners seem to 'get Brit' more easily than other Yanks (or, indeed, some Commonwealth subjects). But, yes, of course you're quite right.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 31st, 2005 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, Yes.

'That's - IMNSHO - the greatest achivement of JKR.'

Precisely. And it seems to me that, to play in her world, it wants a similar level of commitment to do it at one's best.

And I'm not certain if anyone - the British included - really understand the British, but it's certainly worth trying. (What I don't grasp - and I am not a wholly uncritical admirer of America - is how Britons, particularly, can complain of the Americans as being internationally quick-tempered, self-righteous, driven by evangelical religious impulses, particularist to the point of arrogance, persuaded they are the Chosen People of All Christendom, convinced they are on a mission of liberation given them by God, meddlesome in the affairs of others, and notorious for creating a rollicking, vulgar, popular culture that plays to the groundlings. After all, when the English did those things, we called it the Golden Age of Good Queen Bess. Perhaps if the Americans wore doublet and hose?)
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 2nd, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Nothing As Bracing and Good For You As Informed Criticism.

And now I know what I'm doing in March, thanks.
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: November 1st, 2005 09:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well, Yes.

[Americans] are the Chosen People of All Christendom, convinced they are on a mission of liberation given them by God, meddlesome in the affairs of others, and notorious for creating a rollicking, vulgar, popular culture that plays to the groundlings. After all, when the English did those things, we called it the Golden Age of Good Queen Bess. Perhaps if the Americans wore doublet and hose?)

I'm not too convince doublets and hose would help much - except for stirring a new fashion in porn industry, that is.
I'm much afraid it's just the by product of our industrialized and technologically advanced world: all the stuff, formerly reduced to peasant parties (dancing around the bonfire, singing lewd couplets and then dragging your chosen one to the bushes) is now extended, expanded and multuplied, recorded and Preserved-For-the-Eternity in the shape of different films etc.
I always hope that seen from such distance as we now look at Good Old Queen days, only the best of the movies, music etc. will remain - becuase after all eveng among catering to the masses Holywood productions are trly grand works. And Sheakspeare was very much playing to the ale guzzling and loudly burping crowds in "The Globe".

Am I too naive?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 2nd, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Naive? Well, Sanguine.

It was George Gissing who observed, in The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, that we'd think rather less of the Classical Greeks if we'd had a fuller range of their works and doings preserved to us.
nineveh_uk From: nineveh_uk Date: November 1st, 2005 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
up (and it is always up) ‘to town’ is a way of saying, ‘going to London’
Unless, of course, you’re on the northern outskirts of suburban Leeds, in which case, “town” is the city centre (whereas Town Street is the high street of the local town…). I’ve no idea whether this applies to other provincial cities, but I assume it’s not an uncommon usage, given that my parents are not actually from Leeds (praise them for that greatest of gifts!). And now that I come to think of it, whilst we never said “to town” meaning London, when we went to Leeds, did we perhaps say “I’m going into town”?

And isn't everywhere better than Marlborough ;)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 2nd, 2005 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

In, But Not Up?

I don't think I was, really, clear. In my experience, 'up to town' is necessarily a synecdoche for 'up to London', but I agree that 'going to' or 'going into' town cd cover anything from Warminster to Salisbury to Bath. It's hard toget across on the page, isn't it, just as one somehow knows when 'the city' means 'the City' and when it doesn't.

And I had a horrid experience here lately. Browsing the new LJ schools directory, I noticed they'd left Marlborough off the list, and I assumed it to be unintentionally done. So, like a Good Samaritan, I added it. Now I've had to put in a Support Request, because, although I didn't list it as my school (I don't, in any case, think anyone who clings to a pen name, as I do, ought name his old school and college, the potential for abuse is too great), my having added it means I turned up in the directory as having been some sort of Old Marlburian, which I must loudly disclaim. Christ, I don't even care for their tie.
nineveh_uk From: nineveh_uk Date: November 3rd, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: In, But Not Up?

The combination of your icon and the subject line has me trying not to think of Lance-Corporal Jones.

I think the problem was the brackets, which paradoxically managed to pull attention away from the ‘up’ even as they were supposed to do the opposite (something about the eyes skipping on), as I didn’t notice it despite quoting. Which may just be laziness on my part.

a horrid experience
Horror indeed! (And I have to agree that there are reasons for nicknames, and those reasons are generally good.)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 5th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes.

Which is why I don't reveal my school nickname.

EVER.
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