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Alpennia Blog: Addressing the Class Divide

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 13:54

I've discused previously how the way that Alpennian characters talk to and about each other, and even what terms the use to think about each other, provides a constant commentary on their relationships and attitudes, whether it's of status, intimacy, or affection. But in some ways, I always had an out in that I was writing in the third person. A very tight third person, to be sure, but if Barbara thought something about the princess and called her simply "Annek" in the privacy of her thoughts, that could be chalked up to shorthand.

Things are a bit different for Roz, my protagonist in Floodtide. A big difference is that I'm writing in the first person--in her own voice. So I feel much more constrained to having her refer to the people around her using the terminology that would be appropriate if she were relating her story aloud to a listener. The second big difference is that the majority of the people she's dealing with outrank her, either in terms of social class or interactional status. When she beomes Iulien Fulpi's maid, there will never be any circumstance in the story where it would be appropriate for her to address her or refer to her simply as Iulien (much less as Iuli). It will always be "Maisetra Iulien." Even Dominique the dressmaker will always be "Mefro Dominique" to Roz because Roz is apprenticed to her and it's a matter of showing proper respect.

About the only people Roz is on a first name basis with are her close friends Celeste and Liv, and her fellow household servants--at least the ones at the lower end of the ladder. Charsintek the housekeeper gets a surname in deference to her status.

That's an awful lot of maisetras and maistirs and mesner(a)s and whatnot and I may devote an entire editing pass just to look for circumlocutions to avoid being repetitive in any given passage. But one of the reasons I wanted to use Roz as a viewpoint character was to look at Alpennian society from someone at the bottom. And part of being at the bottom is that constant awareness of one's place in the hierarchy. (It's part of being at the top, too, but in a different way.) No matter what adventures they share, Roz never loses sight that it's Maisetra Iulien, not Iuli. It will be quite a challenge to make it work.

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