Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Writing in an Historical Voice" an outline

Writing in an Historical Voice

A Crash Course in How to change your Idiolect.

By G.Robin Smith Writer/Speaker/Educator,

An Idiolect is a personal lexicon.
A writer’s choice of words, word order, rhythm
and phrasing. A ‘Word-Choice Fingerprint’.

Idiolect is how a writer’s voice is recognized.

With these exercises, you will enable your brain to think in a different voice -- one that would fit another time, place or reality.

True Grit, Firefly and Deadwood
all do this to a fine effect.

Who is this for?
The writer who must translate a text into another time period in a hurry.
[A longer course is available for more in-depth study]
You must re-write a script set back in 1750 Colonial America.
The last writer was fired because their script was full of modern slang and expression.
You have no more idea than they did how people talked. But, you are not fired, yet, and have three days to get the job done.
What do you do? You roll up your sleeves, pour the coffee and connect to the Internet and –

1) Browse and get examples of at least five of the following:
a. Personal Diary Entries (Benjamin Franklin, John & Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson)
b. Personal Letters (Search: “Personal Letters 1750”. e.g. ‘Manuscript Women’s Letters & Diaries’)
c. Letters to the Editor (Newspaper Archives – The New England Courant)
d. Political Correspondence between individuals. (Letters try to influence change of a position)
e. Advertisements, Poetry, Riddles, Plays, Popular Songs -- especially work songs –
and Quotes of the era (
f. Find Instruction Manuals (Franklin’s Diagrams for his Stove, his Poor Richard’s Almanac,
his Way of Wealth) and Cotton Mather’s Bonafacius (a.k.a. ‘Essays to do Good’).

All these show you one person’s attempt to persuade another. Words that seek to MOVE a single person are closer to the individual Idiolect of the time than speeches to crowds.

Some of the following is based on Benjamin Franklin’s personal writing exercises
To Write in a Better Style:

2) Take passages you that have the right ‘voice’ to your ear.
a. Print out and cut up the individual sentences.
b. Put the sentences back in the best order your ‘ear’ suggests.
c. Take away the last half of the piece.
d. Write an ending that sounds the same as, and gets to the point of, the original.
e. Put a prose piece into poetry. Set it aside for an hour and try and translate it back to the original. vice versa.
f. Try writing a modern joke in your period’s style.

By now the rhythm, length of sentence, word order and word choice should be influenced.
If you can feel it, and write in it, you just pulled out a miracle and are your bosses’ new darling.

Congratulations. Or rather:
With what my approbation may provide as an assurance, be relieved and happy ever onward. Your most humble and obedient servant, Robin Smith

A Five-Minute Exercise to see how setting a FORM can make you re-think your Idiolect.

Get a Twitter Account.
Write a sentence in Iambic – u^ u^ u^ u^ u^ u^ u^ and ending in an accent -- that takes up exactly 140 spaces using ONLY standard English (i.e. NO ‘ur’ for ‘your’ or ‘2’ for ‘too’, etc.)


I am supposed to write this stupid exercise where I write a sentence in Iambic and take up all the spaces allotted me and it will improve my writing HOW?
[153 characters and NOT Iambic]

Diagram the line: [NB: Put an accented syllable mark (^) and an unaccented mark (u) over the vowels where the beat falls.]

I am supposed to write this stupid exercise where I write a sentence in Iambic and take up all the spaces allotted me and it will improve my writing HOW?

[NB: Once your ear gets ‘tuned’, you do not have to do the writing out of accents. It becomes second nature to recognize where the accents are.]

FIX the sentence so it is Iambic:

I’m told I am to write this exercise where, if a sentence is Iambic and the spaces are all used, the sifting down improves the writing and my skill.

[148 characters, but now it is Iambic and ends in an accented syllable.]

CUT the extra eight characters: I chose to lose the first two words.
Now Twitter is happy and will send it.

I am to write this exercise where, if a sentence is Iambic and the spaces are all used, the sifting down improves the writing and my skill.

It’s better. Amazing. Well done.

See C.V. for links to Robin’s various Twitter accounts where he writes in iambic and contact links


a. Translate from other languages, time periods, and items of record.

b. Note spelling, punctuation choice, word order, commonality of words,
short words vs. longer words, contractions, allegory, directness, pace, etc.

c. Do Chautauqua (improvisational 1st person presentations) in character from another age.

d. Explore period poetic and prose forms and write in them… annoyingly often.

e. Read and Listen tirelessly to the writing of people from your period.

f. Read widely and deeply from the works that influenced your period.

g. Do the work the people of your period did. Weave cloth. Plant your food. Talk to someone... (Texting doesn't count)

Or, if all else fails:

h. Bring me onto your project as a collaborator or a consultant.

© 2011 G.Robin Smith



Writing In An Historical Voice
Philosophy © 2011 G.Robin Smith. Used with permission.

I love Rules.
They define us... as a people.
Rules define a Time. They define a culture.
They define - mark an outline - of where something starts and where it stops.
Rules provide a filter, a screen.
They provide a way to make decisions as to what stays and what goes.

Rules apply to people, to prose & poetry.
This applies to screenplays.

Screenplays are ~120 pages with not that much dialogue in them. Every word must count. Every word should be the best word you can come up with. Those words must be in the best order they can be put in. The Best Words in the Best Order. (btw, that's the definition of Poetry, according to Coleridge.) All this to say "Poets write the best screenplays". :-) (Ever hear of a guy named Shakespeare?)

Think about WHAT makes people tick.
OUTline, UNDERstand, INternalize and OVERview, your observations.

It sets a standard we can count on. A Benchmark to guide us. To measure things against.

To understand someone else, we must alter our perspective, the RULES we live by.
To know why someone else does not share our beliefs, our likes, our passions,
To know why others do not work our job, write what we write
and love whom we love we must see from that other person's point of view - their perspective.
To convey THEIR point of view, THEIR understandings, THEIR Time & Place
We must TRANSLATE using THEIR RULES. Then we begin to think as they do.
To be able to replicate -- convincingly -- an image of someone else's point of view/perspective, we must be able to sympathize, empathize, commune with their world and -- most importantly -- understand what they tried to move or change and what tools they used to do that.

Let's focus in.

Thinking in an Historical Voice takes an understanding of where a person is coming from, going to and whom they have to move out of the way.

Writing in an Historical Voice requires research, exercise and - what the Classical Training of the Enlightenment calls - 'Imitation'
Hints for the benefits of one’s Muse or Robin’s Writing Rules & Helpers

“The secret to enduring success depends on not only inspiration, but also disciplined application of vast artistic knowledge.”
“If a writer is being read 100+ years after they died, they have something to their style. Study it.”

Have a HATE list.
If you say, “Don’t get me started” about a subject, that’s the kind of thing you want on this list.
Also, have a ‘Love’ list as well, with Actors, Movies & Thoughts that inspire you.
But the Hate List is more important.

Get an iPod for downloading podcasts. (Most of these have 50+ archived shows on iTunes and are free to download.)
Subscribe to:
• BBC History Magazine. Stories from around the world and from all ages of the past.
• Chop Bard from . It’s fun, sassy, revealing and I am a contributor. Shakespeare, because you should know him better.
• Classical Mythology because this is where today’s stories have their basis.
• Grammar Girl because it improves your grammar.
• NPR Science Friday because it’s about many things we are passionate about and has cool science stuff we can put in our script.
• On the Page. Essential. From L.A. Script consultant Pilar Alessandra.!
• USC School of Cinematic Arts especially the talks with Stephen J. Cannel, Nicholas Meyer & Julie Taymor.
• The Writer’s Almanac. Garrison Keillor’s daily podcast about writers, writing and events.

Pick other topics to increase your education. Gardening, Naval Warfare, Travel, Government, etc.

Get a Netflix account with streaming capabilities. Whenever you hear someone you admire recommend a movie (Nicholas Meyer – The Rules of the Game) watch it. for customizable postcards to thank your contacts.

Write Poetry. It’s like Yoga, a great exercise. Please, it is not required to share it with everyone.

To strengthen your work, make sure your script has elements of William Shakespeare’s ever-present influences of Death, Order, Love, Transformation & Sovereignty (The D.O.L.T.S.)

Know: Audiences are always fascinated by those that are blessed with luck, those that have no power yet try and struggle against those that do and those who are appointed to rule.
Magic, Manacles & Majesty. Or -- if you prefer -- Sorcery, Slaves & Sovereigns.

To have your Agent always take your call, only call them with news of money coming their way.

Go to Writer’s Conventions and network.

Have writing partners.

Be Mentored. Mentor others.
G.Robin's Writing Rules

* Everything has a price
* Be Serious & Transactional
* The Two Most Important Words in Zen: Not Always So

HINT: Memorize some of your best sentences; ones that you almost can’t believe you had the genius to write. Every time you sit down to write something, start with that. Let it be a Mantra, a prayer. Start with that and it will connect the joints, oil the blood and give caffeine to your brain. It will push you over the top of the hill and down the slope through the fear of the blank page and into the lap of your Muse.

Ask yourself: Would these words work on a stage or on a T-Shirt?

Reality is for Journalists. Storytelling - the Mother of all Art - is Human to Human Truth
[That some Journalists do not often today deal with Reality is their sin to deal with.]

Art lies to indicate Truth

TO WRITE BADLY - Write only based on current thought, read narrowly

Syd Field
Drama = Conflict. Conflict = Action = Character = Story = Script

SEEK M.D.V. -- Maximum Dramatic Value

Do Not TELL your story. SHOW your story with pictures and dialogue.

I farm. My crops are words. 'On Your Imaginary Forces Work'

Stephen J. Cannell
Write: Act One - Describe the Problem. Act I Curtain: Reveal Conflict - the Piece of the Backstory that had been Hidden. By now, certainly, the Antagonist must be in MOTION. Act Two Curtain, Explode the Toilette. Resolve the problem/answer the question = end of script.

Write what MATTERS. Write what MOVES you/the plot/the audience/the characters.

People only show ANGER when they are hiding PAIN

If your current friends aren't doing it for you... get new friends.
(as in, “If you are going hiking and all you have are high heels, get new shoes”)

There's always someone better at what I do. BUT Others may not see the opportunities I do.

Have a 'Hate' List.

Lighthouses, like experience-based advice – are less effective when watered down.

Humanity's Three Dark Secrets: We love Sovereigns. Sorcery fascinates us. We want Slaves.

The Coin of Time: Buy Time. Make Change.

The D.O.L.T.S.
D eath O rder L ove T ransformation S overeignty

The commonality in all Human experience. The common need to have our story told.
Storytellers, however, are not common.

Turn a 'ToDo' into a 'ToDone' = Time Treat.

Never make a Women anyone's Bitch. Same for Men... usually.

Rely on Expect the intelligence of your audience

prose=words in their best order; poetry=the best words in their best order. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If you are good, you write for a penny a page, drafts included.
Maybe, someday, you'll get $1.00 a page. But never any more than that.
To make a million dollars, put in a million pages of learning.

Words have magic in them; enough to change things.

"He who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me." Thomas Jefferson

Writing a screenplay, or an excuse?

A goal without a deadline is DON'T WASTE MY TIME!

"Humanity does not exist in perfect things".

"Form" is just another budget item. Things have to fit.

"The Union of Lucratively Compensated Writers, Actors, Artists & Other Panhandlers", local #555

‘They kissed from one administration to the next. They kissed from full moon to December.
She forgot her birthday and every time her heart had been broken.
She was in love and had no bills to pay’

'crescendo' is a good word but is spelled funny.

I work to FEED: My Muse, My Wife, My Taxman, My Agent, My Manager.
My goal is to only call my Agent and My Manager with job notices and hirings.

If you do something first thing every morning and the last thing every night:
that is most likely what you are.

Artistes want their Muse in Gossamer - graceful, gentle, ethereal & sweet
My Muse is mean & wears a business suit but, god, is she hot. You should see her naked.

7 Points:
1) Ordinary Life of the Central Character
What is the character flaw and how does that flaw interferes.
2) Inciting Incident. Something happens to the main character to make them change. At the End of 1st Act, something else happens which propels them to take action.
3) Midpoint is where they realize what their main flaw is and understands their real goal.
4) Encounter their low point.
6) Big Fight (main scene in the movie where Central Character proves themselves
7) Payoff, enjoyment of reward.

Pamela Jaye Smith
If they are interested and specifically ask about you, then sure, tell a little about yourself, but not too much. Plato observed that "The unexamined life is not worth living." I've observed that the over-examined life [is] not worth hearing about.

Language: Words on a Page like Music Notation on a Sheet. A guide, a visual representation of intent. Change Fonts, make it hard to read and still understand what it says.

Jean Cocteau Poetry: Religion, without hope. Indispensible, if only I knew what for.

'To try, not because you may someday win, but because another as worthy or more might fail if you do not try, if you do not give them/leave them something to find, something to inspire... Do this for them, tho' they may never know you or what you have done.' Magaponal d'Artois

Pico Iyer said: "The less conscious one is of being 'a writer,' the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing should ... be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent ... and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger."


G.Robin Smith (Robin)
C.V. & Contact/Link Page

Educator, performer, writer, speaker, fundraiser, musician
Agent: Miki Nelson – The Amadan Agency – Seattle,,

Brought on by New Zealand Screenwriter Guy Hamling to translate his work into Elizabethan English. VERONA (now on ). Audio trailer at Look for "Verona"

Member: Northwest Screenwriters Guild
IMDB Resume:
Member: National Writers Union

Contributor Podcasts

Author of
A free daily Tweet of loglines & story ideas to spark your imagination.

Subscribe to
for bursts of Iambic

Subscribe to for twice-weekly posts, usually Elizabethan-styled sonnets.

History Educator since 1981
Chautauqua Presenter since 2001, Benjamin Franklin & others.
Created an interactive history education company in 1982
Now The Interactive History Company ( ) run by his wife,
author Cymbric Early-Smith

Festival / Event organizer
Director of the VLA-Shakespeare Project The Black Hills Shakespeare Festival
Contributor ChopBard Podcasts
Member: Northwest Development Officers Association
Ambassador for The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation & Inspiration ( for brief tweets of progressive fundraising thoughts.

Sponsored in part by Hardwick & Sons, Inc. ( )

-30-= ###

Thursday, June 7, 2007

G.Robin Smith - Join My Team!

Hello. I'm G.Robin Smith.
Welcome to my "goBENgo" information page.

This is kind of a 'one-stop-shopping' page for the many things I am doing. It's now 03/31/09 and new things are a poppin'
Five Rivers Fundraising ( for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - and YOUR favorite non-profit;
My Chautauqua (first-person historical presentation) of
Benjamin Franklin - Live! & Inperson-ated
and music with the Celtic influenced "Trilsean"

If you are looking for information on upcoming performances and presentations, go Here

If you are looking for the "Presidential Campaign" of Ben Franklin - really, the campaign is to get people to look at Ben's Ideas and Ideals. As the signs say "Bring Back Ben! Benjamin Franklin for President. If not the man, then his ideas". Google "Ben Franklin Principles" or "Ben Franklin Papers" and go to town:-)

If you are here for fundraising links, donation opportunities, etc. Read on and enjoy.

My mentor and guide on the road to Chautauqua presentations is the godfather of the modern Chautauqua Movement, Clay Jenkinson. He comes to Seattle often. I recommend you see one of his shows as well as my own. (

For video of one of my presentations, go to:

Thanks for browsing.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:
I bet you know someone with Cancer -

I believe that we can make a difference. I ask you to join me and make a difference.
Look below for links to various sites that show you what things have been done.
But you might start here
SOFII (Showcase of Fundraising Innovation & Inspiration - begun by international fundraising guru Ken Burnett) is featuring my Benjamin Franklin program as an example of creative programming for non-profits.

See also The Ben Franklin Website (including a PDF of our brochure) Benjamin Franklin-Innovative American. Contact me for information. (email at

So far, our friends have generously supported my wife and my campaigns and over $30,000 for the LLS has been raised ($10,000+ from the members of the Society for Creative Anachronism alone.)

Here is a picture of what the SCA Logo looked like the last event (at $1,250.00) Now, at over $10,000 from the SCA, the Logo and Name of the SCA was featured on jerseys, advertising, fliers, etc. It's now 2009 and we have begun a $15,000 campaign for the fall. We are over $2,500 there already.

To see a slideshow of "Ben Franklin - Innovative American" in performance, go to
This Website
For future performance dates, go to
Thank you.

What's 7,700 Steps Look Like?
Ben Franklin Stepped Up on his 302nd Birthday. On January 17, 2008, Ben Franklin spent two hours climbing up (and down) a total of 7,700 steps to raise funds and awareness for the LLS. Video by Maks Goldenshteyn of the UW Student Newspaper "The Daily".

Here is a another link to a UW Story about my work as Ben.
Look for the 4th item
FS Newsletter - August issue
For opportunities to join our efforts as a participant or supporter:

Volunteer to Help

All activities by G.Robin Smith sponsored by Hardwick & Sons, Inc. Celebrating 75 years of family owned and operated new and used hard-to-find hard to find tools, hardware, furniture and useful stuff in the heart of the University District of Seattle.

Last Notes:
A couple of free downloads wait you at a memorial page