Merry Monday – Writing Accents

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I see a lot of articles written on the subject of writing. I used to gobble up every tip I read and studied them almost religiously. After reading a variety of books in all genres and writing my own book, I analyze tips more critically now. Tips like don’t write accents bother me.

These tips are never from the bestselling authors. Bestselling authors tend to give advice like keep trying, guard your writing time fiercely, read books of every genre and even non-fiction, find your voice, and whatever you do: be consistent.

Stephen King advises to minimize distraction by having no windows. Just sit your butt in the chair and get to it. No playing instruments and all the other fun stuff until you’re done working for the day.

King isn’t a fan of adverbs, but JK Rowling is. Whenever there is a difference like this, I look to Hemingway (though I haven’t found a book of his I like) and his thought that we should choose whatever word is best for the situation. So I will use only the adverbs that are necessary. Plus, writing is an artform and that means that you shouldn’t repeat yourself or have boring, predictable prose. Now you’re confused because earlier I mentioned being consistent. Well, I believe consistency speaks more to things like point of view, character traits/mannerisms/behaviour, speech patterns, etc. If you have a sentence that uses a contraction (don’t), it’s perfectly fine to have the long form (do not) in the next sentence to change things up a bit. Do it on purpose rather than out of habit.

Mark Twain advised to avoid using very. He said to put damn in its place and the editor will delete it and make your prose right. Very is supposed to intensify, but it comes off as though you don’t know better words. Very sad = morose. Very happy = ecstatic. Very attractive = gorgeous, voluptuous, etc. There is a general thought that suddenly is similar. Instead of surprising the reader, it is an unnecessary word. But if you’re writing for children, very and suddenly are words they should be exposed to as part of the goal is building their vocabulary. There’s always an exception to any “rule”.

Kafka talked about finding your unique voice. What separates you from other writers? You find your voice by writing and by knowing yourself. Life experience helps you find it too. Marketing wise, we also need to know which writers we are like if we expect to sell books.

JK Rowling says to use whatever time you have, loves planning, finds rewriting important, focuses on plot and pacing, and feels you should write what you’re passionate about. Many other authors don’t plan to a high degree and fix plot and pace issues during editing. Clearly there are a number of ways to go about things, though she IS a billionaire. I totally agree on the passion. If you’re not enjoying it, the reader probably won’t either.

King also says above all else, writers must be readers. Actually, King says a lot of things including don’t be boring. I think stating a character has a <whatever> accent is boring. He never says not to write a character’s accent into the dialog.

Neil Gaiman says the key is finishing your stuff and being persistent. Again, nothing about accents.

I think it is woefully inadequate to simply state a character speaks with a <whatever> accent. What if you have characters from around the globe? Your prose will get boring fast. What if you choose a more obscure accent that the reader doesn’t know? They’ll have to put your book down and head to YouTube to hear it or they may plod along not fully connecting with the character. If they head to YouTube and you haven’t hooked them yet, they’ll go down the YouTube rabbit hole and may not pick up your book again. On the flipside, you don’t need to have the thickest accent ever and can slightly alter a few words or use certain ones that are known to be associated with a particular nationality. If my character says, “Mon Dieu!”, you might get they are French from any number of countries and may have to look it up to know what they said. But if your character says, “Laddie, I don’ know what yer talkin’ about,” you can probably guess they are Scottish and understand what it being said. Simply saying someone sounds Scottish feels like passive writing to me. And people often have specific words they always say different. My dad has been in Ontario long enough that he doesn’t sound French anymore, except words that begin with TH he pronounces funny. Thompson he says the th like in that and has a very hard p sound. That sounds more like dat.

I’m not saying to go around writing characters that sound like a stereotype. Though, if writing a B-movie script or certain types of comedy that might be totally acceptable.

Grammar Girl suggests to write dialogue in such a way only when how they say something is important to you as the author. Then she goes on to discuss other things to consider like regional dialects when writing dialog. I tend to agree. There is a middle ground that is reasonable and a value add.

Here are some famous books that still widely read that use accents or strange dialogue: A Clockwork Orange, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn, Trainspotting, and The Color Purple.

Here’s an idea: Instead of telling everyone else how to write, focus on your own work. With over 7 billion people on the planet, there’s not a “right” way to write a book.

Salut,
R~

Complete… Sort of

I finished my first draft of The Page & The Magician on the evening of Wednesday, February 25, 2015. I felt like I wanted to run outside and shout it from the mountaintops. I’m sure lots of people wouldn’t understand and some might have thought I should be taken to a special room with soft walls and ultra bright lights.
It’s the first novel I’ve finished writing, but not the first I have started. One of my other works in progress, Scion, I have been working on for 5 years and I’m still on the first draft. I wrote the first draft of The Page & The Magician in 4 months. I can’t even believe it. I learned a lot about writing, researching, and tenacity during it and that will help me when I get back to my other novel, though it’ll take me a little bit to get reacquainted with that story.
Right now I feel like I need to sleep for a couple of weeks and do a major house cleaning.
I don’t have much time for sleep between roller derby, martial arts, and guitar though. Tomorrow is the season opening bout for the Rideau Valley Roller Girls. It’s happening at Jean Marc Lalonde Arena in Rockland, ON. Our B team, The Sirens, is going up against Montreal’s B team, The Sexpos.
After that, things calm down for a little bit, which is good because I have a costume to work on for Comiccon. I know that’s not until May, but I always leave it too late and don’t get enough time to do anything great. That said, I’m torn between asking for suggestions on parts of it and keeping it a secret. I’m making cardboard weapons and I’m kind of winging it, so hopefully it turns out. The challenge with that is my weapons taper, so I’ve had to “carve” away portions which leave the corrugated portion of the cardboard exposed. I’m thinking I need to cover that with a layer of something like perhaps paper, then paint it to make it look like the material it should be made of if it were real. Perhaps I should look for textured wall paper. That would cut down on the painting need and perhaps be faster…
We’re learning scales in guitar and I’m convinced some of the quiz answer options for the major scales were completely wrong, as in there wasn’t a correct option to choose. On two of the questions, none of the answer options followed the major scale formula. It could also be that my brain needs a break. I’ve been feeling like I’m coming down with something.
Last night was the monthly Ottawa Independent Writers meeting and there was a special guest who talked to us about the art of writing. A Canadian author you may or may not know as he goes by two names. Trevor Ferguson, also known as, John Farrow, gave us pertinent tips to improve our scenes. Things like paying attention to the location while putting together natural sounding dialogue. A phone call doesn’t have the option of body language, so many senses can’t be evoked like they can with a conversation happening on the street. He talked a lot about how authors differ from other artists because there is a greater need to use both sides of the brain. We have to be constantly switching between research and analytical skills to imagination in order to get into a state that allows our characters to write the story rather than us forcing our notes into it.
Some of the things he said made intuitive sense to me, like that everything you do should grab the reader. Instead of a character having a conveniently sudden epiphany, make it so that the reader and the character gradually come to that “Aha!” moment.
He also spoke about the benefits of Third Person Limited Point-of-View in creating tension because not everything is known. I’m generally not a huge fan of third person, but the things he said were interesting and may guide my edits for The Page & The Magician as it is written in third person. I may make it more like the story is in progress rather than already happened. I like the idea that not everything in the story is decided and things could go any way. Keeping the readers on their toes is a good thing.
I’m off to hopefully stop this budding cold before it can take root.
Ciao,
R~

Challenge

I feel one of my biggest challenges as a writer to be creating dialogue. A lot of my book is written but there isn’t enough dialogue.

Once I finally get the dialogue down I keep analyzing whether or not it is witty, boring, etc. Then I wonder whether or not it is even something the character would say the way it has been said and/or whether or not what is being said is realistic.

The next thing I ponder is whether or not I should be writing the dialogue at all if I’m unsure whether or not it is something the character would say. Part of me feels like I need to discover the characters just as my eventual readers will.

Perhaps this is the one time that I should listen to my friend and “just write.”

Ciao
R~