I have been reading a lot of amateur novels, fan fictions, and the like. Wattpad, Archive, and the probably defunct LiveJournal are usually where I troll for new stories. There are some great writers among the crowd. And there are some that obviously need more living before they can write in a way that would be engaging to someone like me. I do understand that for a lot of them, they are not English speakers naturally. English is their second language and that’s fine. Those I can definitely understand.
English, for me, was my first language, to read, to speak, to internalize. I was not allowed to speak the tongue of my mother’s land. I must be above the rest. So, English is where I am most proficient. And because I, too, am a prolific reader, my own vocabulary is extensive (although it’s not as extensive as some). Enough so that I was told that when I was angry with the children, I used words that they needed the dictionary for. It seems my regular speech was not precisely normal. It was a little more cultivated. But since I spoke less than I wrote, it was, of course, only natural.
However, going back to the topic at hand, with reading these novels, I learned (still learning) a lot about the writer’s voice, the complexity of telling a story, the descriptions necessary to paint a world, the character’s voices as to how they speak, and how they convey their thoughts. I have learned that an extensive vocabulary is necessary. A grasp of the meaning of the word is necessary. A grasp of the language writing in is necessary. That punctuation and attention to capitalizations and place is necessary. That words and voice and context are necessary.
These authors switch voices most times. They expose things that should have been not seen from a first person’s point of view. Because they are amateur writers, they have not yet learned the consistency of taking one point of view and overruling others. Authors must put heading as to which character’s point of view they’re relating if they speak in the character’s point of view. It appears almost convoluted and frankly, juvenile. Especially when they switch from a first point of view to a third point of view voice so they can relay a scene from afar. Then again some of them are probably 13, with very little life experience, and very little English reading experience.
Most of the time, their speech is modern, stilted, the words wrong in context, etc. I have learned to make sure I understand the word meant. And if not familiar with it, I must research it. Take the word ‘cant’. For me it was the way a person speaks, the vocabulary attributed to a certain microcosm. Or a rant that was peppered heavily with curses. It is what most people would use. Umm… well, I found that wrong. Hah! An almost obscure definition was ‘cause to slant, tilt.’ Huh. Well, that makes sense. Since it was taking about bedroom positions, after all. And the story was told in heavy formal speech, with its often flowery descriptions and old English court speech. I found myself objecting to that very flowery, formal way of writing and describing this whole story. It did not seem to jive with the modern atmosphere in which the story was taking place (current events within the last two years or so). It jarred my sense of place. It did not belong in the modern informal world I knew.
The thing is, a lot of people equate this formal speech with great writing. Is it because the writing is riddled with obscure words and formal tone? Is it because it resembles Shakespearean speech that it is equated like so? Perhaps it works and that’s great, right? Don’t get me wrong, the story was great. I just could not see a modern man tell someone that they’re a catamite as an angry insult. But it certainly went well with the heavy formal speech. It was just jarring to me. Their particular cant was not something I would encounter in this modern era. I do not think that it would even be in their speech patterns since anyone who is not particularly verbose would need a dictionary to know that word.
I now understand why translating dialect into Latinize words gave rise to such as “ain’t” and “would of”, (this latter one should be formally “would have”.) The vernacular surely taints our speech. However, they convey the time of place, in a modern world where this is how spoken language is. A reality of where we are. Where someone can use the expletive “Sonofabitch” and we can understand it. Or even if I typed “sheeeeeet!!!!” you, the reader, would understand in what context that long drawn out word was, because it’s an expletive that is current and understandable and in the modern context. Unlike the word(s) above.
As I learn from amateur writers about the technicality of writing, I find out more about my favored style. I found that instead of relying heavily on descriptions, I rely heavily on conversations. As if the surroundings do not matter so much as the conversations between characters. I give a cursory description of where the surroundings are and focus on the conveyance of emotions from the characters. It isn’t great writing, I confess. But in my mind’s eye, I’m looking at a TV console where the movements and the speech is necessary and the rest are background noise. And because I read other things besides these amateur novels, I also try my hand at crafting a story with different things. How would I tell a story without any conversations? Would I be able to do that? Can I adapt the flowery, formal speech for a modern day romance? Where would I drop the formality and insert the informal speech for it becomes necessary in that part of the story. And while it seems cumbersome to read in the that formal, flowery speech, I found someone stating that I ought to write in that vein more often. What? Now, mind you, that is only one reader. I have yet to follow that direction.
I find that for my own writing, I like the informal speech. Both for the writer’s voice as well as the character’s voice. I have yet to write in the point of view of one of the characters. I have stuck to 3rd person’s point of view, but always being mindful of focusing on one character’s point of view instead of multiple ones. It’s distracting to keep stating “meanwhile…” This does limit what I can show as it means I can only see from this character’s point of view. No matter if the other is really taking a speck out of the eye, the main character whose view I have can only see that it seems as if there may have been a kiss. And based on that point of view and voice, I reason the rest and take them on adventures. It is a difficult thing to do, believe me. As I coddle these characters, I want them to be able to see, to drop hints, to remove any obstacles out of their way. But a story cannot progress as such, no? Without any stress and anticipation for something. Perhaps because I craft other things besides stories do I know about voice and in which context one should write it.
I found that consistency of voice is important, both the author’s and the characters’. A heavy formal tone with heavy prose are best kept for courtly endeavors, I find. Shakespearean plays and what not. Or dramas of heavy gravity. While the more mundane vernacular should be for a fast moving, action packed twister. A modern rom-com should have a more current vernacular-way of talking. At least, that’s what it should be like to me. It makes for an engaging story. And it does not jar the senses.
Then there are the individual readers themselves. Most are authors as well. They go trolling these sites and because of some words or others ask that we take down a word that is of great offense to them. Like rape, murder, or something else. Well. The speech of the story requires the word ‘rape’ instead of ‘forceful violation’ or even ‘molest with intent to force affections’. In fact, it was not even something that happened within the story itself. It was a word that the character had thought because it was something he wanted to do as his desire was too much… He didn’t. But it was a thought. After all, what other word would describe that dirty longing and wish to violate most forcefully an object of their affection? And no one would think of all the words I had just strung together in a second. They would think ‘rape’ because it is in the modern vernacular and it was this speech that my characters were most familiar with. These same readers then would threaten to discredit the story written when the author (me) would refuse. Stating it wasn’t that great a story anyway. And in my mind, “Oh, okay. Sure.” I did not write the story for this specific person after all. And just because it’s something she objects to, is not my problem. I, too, have triggers I would rather not encounter. I haven’t yet successfully written a suicide scene. I have written a rape scene. It is all sorts of emotional and I have not put it out there for the netizens to read and pore through. (Because the story is not yet finished and writing the suicide scene is not exactly going how I want to.) I have not yet written a scene about domestic violence. Nor have I written any stories where deep deviations have featured in them. I find that I’m not very familiar nor comfortable with both at the moment. Perhaps I ought to dig deep and bring out all my emotions and write about them someday. But it won’t be today.
Today, I want to experiment more on stories that have no conversations, only descriptions. Unfortunately, these kind of stories won’t be found under my livejournal page, nor my Archive page. (As for wattpad, I have never posted there yet. I wonder if I ever will.) It is something to bear in my mind.
Perhaps I’ll post them here, someday. When the story is written well, and written to my satisfaction. I have stories that are as of yet, unshared. Why? Because they did not go the way I envisioned them. Unfortunately, quite like my live children, these stories are unruly children. The characters refusing to cooperate. They do not want me to make them the villain of the piece. Or that one particular couple refuses to allow me to describe their bedroom scenes. Is this not a thing that all authors struggle with? How precisely do you whip them into place and let them fit the mold you would adhere to them? Ah… I swear, sometimes, my own creations take me for a ride. And then abandon me on the road to discovery stating they do not want me to go any further than that. Ugh.
I will go and corral my unruly children. At the moment, I must negotiate and perhaps plead. Do not think to highly of this author. This author is not above prostrating herself before her unruly characters. And even then, spoiled children that they are, they ignore my pain.