Unless you are an authority on a certain subject, you may have to do a lot of research to write a story or article. Articles, of course, are usually nothing but the facts (though Opinion is allowable) but fiction can be written without them. The problem with that, though, is that you can write a story full of nothing but fantasy and lose a reader because they have no real reference points. I find that hard facts make a fiction story more real to a reader no matter what genre it is written in. Take Jurassic Park as an example; what occurred in the story is highly unlikely to ever really happen but due to all the scientific facts used in the writing of it, the story certainly makes it seem like it could happen at any minute and make you feel that it is happening somewhere in our world.
In an earlier blog post, I told you about the creation of my story Woman In Black, which tell the adventures of a time-tripping better half of the Men In Black society. In this story, Debra, our heroine, is sent back in time to deal with a pesky alien known to the masses as Jack the Ripper. Her job is to eliminate this alien because his presence caused too many disruptions in the future—or so she is lead to believe. The problem with this is that you cannot drop a beautiful blonde assassin, who is an expert fighter, a dead shot, and who can slice an alien up in a minute using her very non-regulation Stiletto, into the middle of the Whitechapel District of London in 1888 and not have her stick out like a strobe light in a darkened room.
So in Debra’s Assignment Package, there was suitable clothing and money for the period but there was something else that I put in there as well. I thought about the time and place and realized that Debra’s pattern of speech would make her stand out just as much as anything else. Jack the Ripper hunted his victims in a very poor part of London where criminals of all types roamed. His victims were mostly poor prostitutes that sold their wares just so they could get a roof for the night. As such, most of the denizens of the Whitechapel district spoke Cockney English.
So I inserted a copy of “Hanson’s Cockney-to-English Dictionary” into her Assignment Package and gave her a few days to learn her new language. Fortunately, Debra is as smart as she is sexy so by the time it was time to transport her to the Ripper’s hunting grounds, she was proficient in the verse, so much so that the following conversation took place as she roamed the streets hoping to trap Jack into an attempt on her life before he could get to poor Polly Nichols, who was his first known victim:
“Very nice, neck down, ya know. The boat face is a problem, but then I don’t ‘ave to look a’ it I ‘spose.”
Whirling at the comment, the tawdry looking woman retorted, “‘oo you talkin’ ’bout, guvna? Take a butchers at this. These’ll knock yer mincers out.”
She then pulled down her neckline showing a wealth of cleavage.
“Ain’t neve’ said y’ ain’t got a bit of a body on ya; nice arse an’ all. But a plain one y’are, I say. Maybe a bit o’ color would dice you up.”
“Ain’t neve’ touched the stuff, an’ I ain’t gonna start fer the likes of you.”
“Oh I’d duck, ya right enough, you witch. But I got ta get home to the trouble ‘n strife. Maybe it’ll be I’d pass this way again.”
“Right, you get to yer troubles, she’s got yer by the barnacle bills, she ‘as. Go on, get it on ‘ome, I got my bees knees to attend to.”
The man gave her an angry glance, she tensed, ready to act, but he only cursed at her, pulled the knot tighter around his leather apron, and faded into the fog. Probably heading home for a warm meal and a dry bed; something Debra wished she could do at that moment.
The reference to the man’s leather apron is nod to the only real suspect the police had in this case. Not only was a mysterious stranger called Leather Apron by terrified prostitutes in the area, a leather apron was the usual garb of butchers in that day and age.
While I was researching Cockney I discovered that it was more of a code language criminals used as a way to speak openly around Coppers who supposedly did not understand it.
I think the addition of these realities into a wide ranging science fiction story gave it some credence; who knows, maybe Jack the Ripper really was an alien.
If you want to learn Cockney and translate the conversation above, here is a link to a great site that will help you: http://www.freelang.net/dictionary/docs/html_cockney_english.php
To read up on Leather Apron, go here: http://www.jack-the-ripper-walk.com/leather-apron.htm