I’ve been making a concerted effort to write more stories in a New Zealand setting, to tap into my past, my culture, my experiences as a kiwi and bring those onto the page. And I finally seem to have cracked it. At least, I think so.
I’m currently reading through Shell and Bone, and wow, it strikes me as very very kiwi. I set it in a fictional town here on the West Coast of the North Island, and the characters talk a lot like the people I grew up around. Their behaviour is similar, and so to me it seems very authentic.
But I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing.
Do people want to read this? Is it too casual, too rough around the edges for mass consumption? Or does it only sound that way because I’m reading it with a New Zealand accent? I won’t know for sure until other people read it, but I have to admit that I am torn. Partly I just want to grin – it’s so familiar, like home – and part of me wants to cringe.
There has been a strong sense all through my life that in our speech, in our written word, in any form of communication, we should strive to sound British. I mean, they colonized our country, and so we take a lot from there. Admittedly more recently the trends seem to look to America, but the general underlying feeling is that please, for the love of god, don’t sound like a kiwi.
Apparently this seems to be changing. While some people think its a bad thing, others think it’s for the better. I think that feeling free enough to be authentically kiwi is a good thing, though that doesn’t mean we should ignore grammar, or be too over the top with our kiwi slang. Certainly, for the purposes of story telling, a line has to be drawn somewhere, otherwise no-one is going to know what I’m talking about (some examples of this can be seen in this video).
Needless to say, this is still something I am working out, internally, and on the page. I don’t believe that having an authentic kiwi voice means overcrowding my stories with slang and NZ cliches, but I don’t think it means writing like I live in another country either.
Have you considered your roots when it comes to writing style? Do you tend to set your stories in your own nation or in others?