Monday, May 11, 2009

Lingo, Dialogue, and Slang

What I'm Listening To: Emilie Autumn - Swamped

What I'm Doing: Reading Tad Williams' To Green Angel Tower and brainstorming M&M.

I was talking to Mami last night, and I sprang a rather odd and unexpected question on her in the middle of the conversation.

Do I talk funny?

I possibly could have phrased it: "Do I speak strangely?" and it would have made more sense, because the question in it's first incarnation garnered me an odd look and an 'Er?' in lieu of an actual answer.

The reason I asked was because I realised that I ... for lack of a better way of saying it, talk funny. Speak strangely. Most people don't actually say things like "Currently, I am attempting to muster the energy to get out of my chair," and the like. But I do. Constantly. Added to the fact that I'm about ten years behind on slang (my sister had to explain the nuances of 'camel toe' to me once) I came to the conclusion that most of you have already reached: I'm weird.

Mami said (very kindly) that writers tend to use their vocabulary. There's a difference between showing off your knowledge of a somnambulist and actually using that word in a sentence without thinking about it. "I find myself somnambulating at night; I think I need to go see a doctor," is well within the span of something I would say.

Normal people would say, "I need a doctor. I'm sleepwalking at night."

See what I mean?

At the same time (and another thing Mami pointed out to me) this is useful in writing, and showing people who's talking by what they say.

I could tell you that Maria is a dark, gothic, depressed type, and Roger is something of a geek, and then show you a conversation between the two of them.

"The world is a dark and empty place, and I just don't fit into it any more. It's time for me to move on."

"Well, don't say things like that. You should just try moving to another city, or actually reaching out to people - hey, I've got a D&D game in need of a mage, you could try joining us."

You know that Maria is depressed, and that Roger is a geek, so I don't need to tell you who's speaking in order for you to figure it out. Their mannerisms and phrases give them away.

I wish to god I'd saved the conversation with Mami in which we were talking about nicknames for Vicky (from Eversong) and I told her I was considering 'Vic' for short, and she told me that it reminded her of 'victim' and launched into a brief dialogue between two cops.

It was brilliant. I immediately heard the gruffness, the cold, the dispassion with which the cops spoke of the murder victim. It wasn't just Mami 'speaking' for two cops, it was two cops speaking. I pray fervently that I can match that talent for voice in writing one day. It's one of the things that makes her so fantastic a writer, and one of the things holding me back. I'm aware that I have difficulty with voice. It's because the characters aren't yet real. When I'm writing fanfiction, the characters are already real to me, and I have no trouble distinguishing them by their spoken words, or getting into their heads and discovering what they'd say in any given situation.

It's one of the things I'm struggling with at the moment in my own writing, distinguishing between voices, and keeping the people from becoming cookie-cut-characters.

I already know that Vicky, from Eversong, is something of a drifter, like myself. She has a tendency to daydream, and get lost in her own thoughts, and when she's tense she gets snappy. Riley, on the other hand, from Mischief and Murder, is totally different. I don't want to say opposite, because that's not true. Riley's not snappy under pressure, he completely flakes out and becomes useless. Kind of an 'OMG OMG OMG WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE OMG!" guy. Vicky, under the same circumstances, would say something like, "Shut the hell up and let's just keep moving!"

But Jonas (from Eversong) and Mara (from M&M) are both somewhat similar, (they fight horrendously with their main characters) and I've got to find some sort of distinction between the two of them, possibly, Jonas is an ass because he's got an asshole father, and he doesn't know any other way. Mara's kind of a jerk because she's under pressure, and her parents are dead, and she's usually quite sweet, or at least, has sweet moments, and also because she has no patience with Riley's freak-outs.

I wish blogger were more like LJ, with 'cuts' that let you hide parts of the text so that if people didn't want to read them, they didn't have to. That being said, consider this my 'cut' - I'm just going to write down something for myself, and don't feel obligated to read it just because it's here.


Situation: a landslide while walking on a narrow pathway.

Vicky: *flattens herself against the back of the path, with the hopes that the rocks and dirt will pass over her*
Jonas: *tries to outrun the landslide and get away from the danger*
Riley: *stares at it in horror*
Mara: *flies out of the way of the falling debris*

This tells me a lot about my characters. Vicky uses logic, even if it's not the greatest idea, Jonas uses brute force to rescue himself, Riley freaks out, and Mara actually takes herself to guaranteed safety. If this were to actually happen to Mara and Riley, she'd probably take him with her, for the simple reason that he'd probably stand there freaking out until it was too late. XD

Something I read about characters, and 'not making them mary sues/gary lous' was making sure they have character flaws. It's easy to make someone perfectly unlikeable. It's not as easy to make someone likeable, but not perfect.

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