A Healthy Dose of Aphorism


When writing a historical fantasy novel, your long hours of study reveal a great many healthy aphorisms spoken by real-life figures that can be adapted into the story.  These sayings don’t always have to be wise.  They need only be fitting, fill a void.  It helps draw your fictional characters into the period.  The fact they know something true concerning a real person in that time period, provides depth.

The second challenge in writing a novel is creating aphorisms out of thin air.  You have to learn to mold your characters speech, language and thought process.  Just like us, they have their own way of expressing themselves.  You can’t have your characters talking like you or in a vernacular un-befitting the time in which they exist.  You don’t want an unlearned cowboy speaking refined phrases anymore than you want a Renaissance lady talking like a valley girl.  A peasant living in a hut is not going to be quoting Plato.  A blood thirsty soldier is not going to quote Gandhi.

And yet, every human being has their own moral code that draws to them aphorisms that motivate them, or remind them of what is important to them.

In ‘The Crystal Crux,’ I tried to maintain continuity from chapter to chapter by assigning aphorisms to my characters.  This is not always easy.  Without good, sound notes, it is easy to forget how a character talked and thought back in chapter three when they don’t reappear until chapter twenty-eight.  Aphorisms for each character, even if you don’t tell your audience what they are, can help remind you, the author, generalizations about the character that feed the specifics.

Listen your family and friends speak.  Watch for their aphorisms, things they are known to repeat and think without noticing it has become a philosophy.  When you are reading books or watching tv and movies, look for these signposts.  Aphorisms are everywhere.

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