Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Combating a cliché

I am glad to report that the redrafting for chapters four, five and six is almost done and dusted (at least at this stage). I’ve gone through the print outs, made a few tiny inked corrections, and finally think I can move on like the plodding slow but sure tortoise to chapter seven.

I have already walked all around chapter seven, poked at it, stared, frowned, gone out of the room and quickly come back in again to see if it changed, and then frowned once again. I’m still frowning. Cue over-dramatic music - is this a cliché which I see before me?

What is a cliché anyway? Overdone shorthand? Good as gold, hard as nails, blind as a bat? Expressions or visual imagery that has been done to death (ahem) making the audience bored to tears (oh my God they are everywhere). It can be corny, it can make a reader (or viewer) wince, it can be something everyone can second-guess way before the scene draws to a conclusion. And I don’t want any in my novel thank-ye-very-much-lazy-brain.

I wanted Arthur (my main character’s husband) to give Florence a gift before he goes off to battle through the Second World War. The first thing I thought of was splitting a coin – half a silver sixpence, and she to wear her half around her neck (as silver doesn’t make your skin go green). Does this make you wince? Does this make you roll your eyes with disdain? Does this make you think of the lovely Tommy Steele? See – I thought all these things on re-reading, and yet when I confided my cliché fear to a friend, she had never heard of ‘splitting a sixpence’ and thought it was a nice idea.

So then I thought there might be a way around this… and hit upon – wait for it - half a florin coin. You see – the florin’s origins were from Florence in Italy and my main character is called Florence… it is the same sentiment, but breaks with the sixpence idea which maybe is a bit over-done. The florin I wanted was the 1872 gothic florin, as it has the Latin FD - Fidei Defensor, defender of faith, which I felt fitted in nicely with Arthur and Florence believing they will make it through the war. The gothic florin was also a silver coin (according to eBay anyway – I’d have to make more enquiries!) so you can wear it close to the skin. It is also a good size – 30 mm in diameter.

I’m fond of it, but there are practicalities now to work out – this will be a coin handed to Arthur from his granddad on the occasion of leaving school to start an apprenticeship. But now I am wondering what the value of such a coin was back then – a florin is two shillings, a tenth of a pound, so basically ten pence, but back then… well if we go only back to when Arthur is thinking of cutting it in two it could have bought him four pints of beer. If you think nowadays a pint can cost £3 (going most expensive, here) then a rough comparison (e.g. one that isn’t exactly right) is £12, and would he have seriously cut it in two or dined out for a week on it? At least a sixpence is less monetary value… gosh how unromantic. Darling I am off to fight in the war… and I give you this farthing I found down the back of the sofa to remember me.

Of course this is the part when I start seriously researching and find out the 1872 gothic florin is a collector's item worth billions and was only issued in gold to Kings. Or something.


Rose said...

well I'm overly romantic so I think splitting the Florin sounds wondeful and like to think that he wouldn't have thought of selling it to eat for a week but would split it for his true love.

Jayne said...

Ooo thanks Rose! I'm so pleased you like the idea. That is very encouraging!