Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Evil or Eeveel? How do your characters sound in your head?

Soon after I started writing, I realized that all of my characters had English accents (British Empire English not Southern Illinois English). They also used very colorful language and fit in as many obscure and long words as possible. And when you have the handy dandy MS Word Thesaurus just a few clicks away... Well let's just say that the language was odd (BUT FANCY) indeed.

It was a horrible and seemingly unbreakable habit. Until I read Stephen King's On Writing. In there he clearly states that words are just representations of ideas and are close at best. He then asks why would you use a word that was only cousin to the word you actually wanted to use. I read, re-read, bought the audio book on CD (wore them out) and then bought the MP3 of this book. It broke me of many bad habits. You could do worse than pick-up a copy and memorize it.

My point here is that I had all the characters dressing up in clothes and living out fantasy adventures in my head and sounding real and acting real but once I put them on the page... They decided to be Shakespearean Thespians. I still have some of the things I wrote. They are hilarious and, God willing, they will never be read by another human. Perhaps my children will read them for a good laugh when I am dead.

Do you have this problem? How do you deal with dialog? Do you make up words? Use phonetic rendering to give the effect you are seeking? My opinion (and to be clear it is only my opinion but I would think others will agree) is YES! With a caveat....

The caveat being - If it works.
If it doesn't?
Delete it and move on.

How will you know if it works?
Easy. Read it out loud. Kick back in your chair and read it the way you hear it. It will take several times of hearing yourself read your own work aloud before it even sounds natural. Try it out until it sounds normal before you judge how your experiments sound out loud. I do this by reading my WIP to my son at bedtime. He is young and very clear when he doesn't like what I am reading. Want an honest critique? Read your stuff to a kid. Make sure they are still the age where they tell people inappropriate things like, "You stomach is squish!" or "I think my teacher is one step prettier than you, mom."

Keep trying different things. Some will work and some will not. It just takes a little time and being open to critiques from yourself and others. Writing is a journey and you will make missteps and wrong turns. There will be setbacks and disappointments. But you can recover and will, if you truly desire to write.

Until next time... WRITE!

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