Galvanized Steel

Have you ever noticed that there are words in our language that reference physical objects, without discussing the physical object?

If you haven’t, and you write fantasy, you should probably take some notes.

There are many ways to say the following: His words strengthened her resolve.  As I discovered attempting to write this sentence, some of them are not really appropriate in a fantasy setting.

Oh, you want examples?  Here you go:

His words galvanized her. Galvanized refers to a process that is done to metal using electricity, and is derived from the name of a man (Galvani) who studied bioelectricity in the late 1700s.

His words steeled her resolve.  Steel was around, in small amounts, for a long time, but wasn’t in common use until the 17th century.

His words electrified her. Electricity, in the form of static electricity, was known early on, but it wasn’t really something in use until the 1600s.

These are some tricky examples, because I could use them even though the terms were not used in this way in the correlating time period.  It is fantasy, after all, so some modification of history is allowed.  The big problem is not that the terms are inaccurate or wouldn’t have been in use.  It’s that the words I use as an author set the tone and feeling for the reader.  If someone gets to that sentence and even subconsciously thinks “They didn’t have steel back then,” you will be throwing them out of the setting of the story.

Be careful with the references in your words.  We use them without thinking, but they might just ruin the setting for our readers.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. deshipley
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 17:24:27

    Oooh, tricky… Those types of slip-ups can probably take a lot of concentration to catch; like the typo that hides…until its leering right into your face (not too late to change, we can only hope).

    Reply

  2. YerMom
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 08:00:10

    Hey, I think you could teach English:)

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Animal Inaccuracies « Butterflies and Dragons

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