Today I was talking to one of my beta readers, getting some pre-discussion feedback before the whole group meets on Saturday. She admitted that historical fiction on ancient Egypt isn’t something she’d normally pick up, but then made my day telling me she loved it and that I needed to come up with a plan to market the book to non-history people because they’ll love it.
I told her that I love the warm glowy comments, but I need to know all the bad stuff- everything in the novel that doesn’t work. Her first comment was that the names were hard in the beginning.
Don’t I know it? Egyptians had a penchant for names that feel like a sack of marbles in your mouth. I’ve yet to find a way to make them less painful, shortening some and even looking up all their throne names. Would you rather have Thutmosis or Aakhpenenre?
Then she made a great comment- one I’m going to be on the lookout for. She said that some of the dialogue seemed too modern. That was something that Gary mentioned when I posted my first couple pages (which have now been edited within an inch of their life). She said she could tell when reading Hatshepsut’s interaction with kids that I took some of that inspiration from real life interactions with my daughter.
Guilty as charged.
There’s a fine line to walk here. Obviously Egyptians wouldn’t have talked like us, but I’ve read some depictions of Hatshepsut that are so stiff and formal (sorry, Pauline Gedge!) that they’re hard to read and make it difficult to connect with the characters. My beta reader commented that the modern-speak wasn’t heavy throughout the novel, but it definitely poked through.
So I’m adding that to my list for this weekend’s revisions. Do any of you have particular issues with dialogue?