I’ve been hibernating from my blog but furiously working behind the scenes to get to the stage of a version of every tale, however raw. Deadline for that, early February. Then another home-based four-day retreat to finish stuff off. Then lots of fine tuning.
Just before Christmas worked on the Friar’s Tale: the combination of suddenly realising that most of my versions are in variations of southern England English and that I only had six more to do, forced me to take on other voices. I wrote The Friar’s Tale (The Devil in Llandudno Junction) in a North Wales English i.e. English influenced by Scouse and Welsh. I spent my entire secondary schooling in North Wales, it was easy. And great fun! All very well having Nigerian English and nonspecific Eastern European but what about the wealth of Englishes in the UK. Note UK and not just England. Found some great websites where you can listen to different accents (people from all over the UK reading Mr Tickle!) and get into grammatical variations, like the Southern English ‘we was’ or the Yorkshire ‘it were’.
Chaucer’s Reeve’s Tale is the only one to use a different dialect, a Northern dialect, and that’s only in the direct speech of the students. Yesterday I had another attempt at the Reeve’s Tale. I can now announce that the speaker will definitely be a dog, a Yorkshire sniffer dog. Suddenly the tale came alive. Also, after doing versions in prose, blank verse, unrhymed and rhymed iambic tetrameter, I think I’ve finally found the verse form: rime royale. Chaucer invented rime royale for Troilus and Criseyde. His is in iambic pentameter and I fully intend to give that a go for either the Man of Law’s or Franklin’s Tale; but mine is in tetrameter.
Some of the voices have come easy, the Knight’s, Reeve’s and Merchants have not. But I learnt my lesson the hard way with the former and I now know very quickly whether the voice is working. If the writing of it’s like walking through concrete, my instinct tells me I’m not excited and something is wrong. Writing doesn’t always flow, but without the passion, the obsession to get it as good as it can possibly be, it’ll be dead words on the page. I have to have a strong sense of the character AND know the form fits their voice. Narrative’s a challenge but Chaucer already did that work for me (as Petrarch and Boccaccio did for him). My next challenge is The Summoner’s Tale and he has to be a geezer from Sarfeast London who happens to be a bailiff. Take a butchers at this in a few weeks time…