Writing English

I have an English character in my book. Because. Well, because I’m a die-hard anglophile and I have this delusional belief that one day, just one day, when my book becomes published, David Tennant will play my main character. Since he’s free from Doctor Who.

Hey, a girl can dream right? We all need some sort of motivation when we slog through Nanowrimo. Although right now, my Nanowrimo novel is more akin to a pile of crud whereby characters sit by the River Thames and the beach and have long philosophical discussions rather than actually solving the crime.

You’d be amazed how many times I’ve written food into the novel just because I’m hungry. For instance, “Edward grabs a Krispy Kreme and hands it over to Alistair” and since I have been craving nachos since forever, it’d be a matter of time before on my characters grabs a nacho snack from 7-11. Even though they don’t really sell nachos in Malaysia in 7-11.

But I digress. I have an English character. Actually two. Right now, I have two English characters sitting by the Thames river (as all Englishmen do during their spare time. Just as how all Malaysians sit by the beach and collect coconuts during our spare time) and they are discussing about…well, life. And something is severely off about my characters. They don’t feel very…English.

I figured that my interpretation of English-ness is based on my short three years in the UK. And by reading the Guardian. And watching Doctor Who. Occasionally I’ll get my inspiration on BBC Entertainment but not that often, because if Englishness is defined by BBC Entertainment, the average Englishman not only spends time on the Thames river, they also try their hardest to appear on “The Weakest Link”. And by default, that means the average Malaysian angst away about our farm crops dying just like every Malay drama. And evil city girls stealing husbands away from the sweet village girl.

And we do stuff like ban yoga. Of which, if you’re curious about my stand it’s a “I don’t care. Really. I haven’t been to the gym in ages anyway.”

I was watching this clip off Neil Gaiman’s blog, it has Patterson Joseph, the most likely candidate to replace DT as the Doctor and I figured that’s what has been missing on my wriiting. Being eccentric. The British are so deliciously eccentric (really, a time travelling alien…who travels in a phone box. Take that J.J Abrams. Who needs millions of dollars to spend on concept art when you can just make Captain Kirk ride a bus all over space) and that is essentially who they are.

But capturing this eccentricity is as easy as the average Westerner writing about the average Malaysian’s paranoia and whiny-ness. You could easily overdo it and then it looks like nothing like the real thing. Which bothers me and now, my two English characters are sitting down by the Thames river, a shadow of their real-life couterparts.

The alternative, would be to British-fy them the American way. I can so tell if a book is set in England is written by an American. Usually by the copious amounts of tea the characters drink. And they are all related to someone posh, Lord something or rather even if they do something very common for  living. They also have a very strange way of speaking, something I’ve not heard in my three years that I was there.

So worst case scenario, my two characters by the Thames river. If I don’t find them to be British enough, I’m going to make sure they’d be drinking tea and eating crumpets and staying stuff like “Cheers” every other word so that we know, dammit, that they’re British.


4 comments on “Writing English

  1. David says:

    Obviously there is no one type of British person, but if they are to be different from upper class, chances are they are sitting in a pub with a view of the river, drinking a pint.

    People always mistaken Englishness with high class England. Brits drink beer, shout, are obnoxious on a Friday night, like girls in really trashy clothing, and yet once they grow older settle down for the very proper lady who has traded her belt of a skirt for tweed or twin sets.

  2. Adlina says:

    That is completely true. I still remember the disappointment when I arrived in Warwick to find that a) Hugh Grant b) Colin Firth and the lot do not exist.

    But drink beer, and being obnoxious does not make for an interesting read 😛

    And there’s already a Corey! What can I add to the vast wide world of literature?

  3. YkK says:

    But they DO drink copious amounts of tea! :p xx

  4. Adlina says:

    YKK – Yes, they do. So they’ll drink tea, get drunk by the Thames riverside and chase girls in tweed…

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