Ask Daphne! Take the lift, or no?

August 20th, 2008 • Kate

Proper British boots for Amy, who writes:

The protagonist in my story is American, so, while I am British, I obviously write her with an American voice. My problem is that since I will be seeking publication in England, I’m unsure as to whether I can stick to using American spelling and grammar for authenticity’s sake? This probably has an obvious answer, but there are so many Do’s and Don’ts about manuscripts and seeking publication that it’s easy to feel confused.

Amy, this may be something an agent there over on the other side of the pond may have a better answer too, but as I don’t know any of them that blog, I shall have to do my best!
I think you’ve set yourself a complicated problem — the trick would be in keeping your protagonist’s voice and thoughts in Americanized English, while keeping the setting and possibly your other characters British. Depending on your p.o.v., this may take the form of an omniscient British narrator with just one American character, or your American character who narrates the whole story reflecting her surroundings in her own voice.
I would try to concentrate on the story, and do your best with keeping your protag’s voice American, even if that makes it stand out, and trusting that when you find a publisher, their copyeditor will help you standardize what needs changing.
And bonus to Paul who asked about my stack of queries: I’m all caught up, at least as of late last night. If you sent me a query via email before midnight, August 19th, and haven’t gotten a response yet, please feel free to resend.

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2 Responses to “Ask Daphne! Take the lift, or no?”

  1. E.C. Myers Says:

    Amy, just as a data point, as I'm not sure this applies: Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy alternates between U.S. and Australian spellings and language, as it has both American and Australian characters; it's an unusual but effective choice that publishers obviously supported. The book also alternates between first person (for the protag) and third person for the secondary characters.
    Daphne's advice sounds good to me, and I would pay particular attention to keeping your protagonist's dialogue American and everyone else's British.

  2. jeanoram Says:

    I hear you Amy!
    I write chick lit and live in Canada. And sadly, most Canadian publishers and agents are not exactly into chick lit. Therefore, I've set my sights on the American market. (As an added bonus–it's bigger!) Since I'm focussing on agents and publishers down in the states, I use American spelling. I don't think Canadian spelling would trip them up, but I fear that they may get the false impression that I don't know how to use my spell check. 🙂
    So, I'd go with what's been stated and keep the British spelling for the Brits you're querying and keep the 'voice' of your American protag American. (i.e 'honour' instead of 'honor' and 'trunk' instead of 'boot.)
    I love British words. I think you folks have got the best vocab and great words. 🙂