Monday, January 17, 2011

I've been avoiding writing this...

My 2011 New Year's resolution was that next New Year I'd actually get around to making a real New Year resolution.
Only I am not sure I'm going to be able to keep my resolution. Maybe I'll try this one again in 2011...

Which sort of brings up two issues in my own writing: Challenge and procrastination. My little writer's group like to set challenges. It stirs us up, moves out of the comfort zone and sometimes makes us grow. We try to pick on aspects that we think the others need to work on: I've been challenged to write a bit of dialogue with no colloquialisms, no accents. I'm mildly amused by this because I am a fairly moderate user of regional accents (although I do use them often) but obviously what I am doing, works well enough to convince my little group that I am an incorrigable ‘accenter'. Well. I'm not. What I've learned to do - and work quite hard at is using a few key words and expressions to ‘tag' the speech of different characters. It makes for easier reading, than a real and faithful rendition. And um, more convincing too. I've read - or tried to read books where the author has faithfully transcribed the sounds of Welsh-spoken or Scots-spoken English... and duh, it's hard work and, inevitably because accents are SO specific and regional unless you're writing one know and live in you'll wind up using a West Coast expression in your East Coast accent... or North Usk mixed with South Usk. There is a lot too, in the way of speaking. Queenslanders I have noticed end their sentences in questions, hey? Rather like Canadians, eh?

Anyway I talked about accents merely to put off talking about procrastination. I'd be good at procrastination, if only I could get around to it. Seriously, I am one of the world's worst. Never put off until tomorrow something that can be put off to the next day, I say.

Which doesn't work terribly well for writing (or even submitting). So I've had to try to deal with it. Straight head-to-head doesn't work for me: distraction and I suspect fear of failure get to me -- this from a guy who loves his work, with I think about 20 finished books, and a lot of shorter fiction (so if it worries you now, it's not going away). I've found a number of things that do get me there. 1) Looming deadlines. 2)Not wanting to let other people down. 3)taking it small bite by small bite (a book is VAST project 200 words is not... and if you discipline yourself into doing those 200 words and not a word less... it grows as often as not). 4)Daily goals. I'm on a minimum 1500 at the moment. I was doing a minimum 2K but that was just every second day fail. 5) peer competition. I have a little sublist of pros. We compare daily. 6)Make writing a displacement activity for something else you're trying to put off. That works for me!

So what works for you? And have you noticed any speech mannerisms that ‘tag' specific groups of English speakers?


MataPam said...

Accents. ::sigh:: I try, but, like, you know, when I'm writing away all my characters wind up sounding the same, Dude.

I hate last minute rushes, so I tend to not procrastinate, or better yet, not have deadlines. Even setting them for myself seems to cause anxiety. Without them, I type happily away. Hopping from one thing to the next . . . It's a different form of procrastination, and I'm trying to work on one or two things at a time so they do eventually get finished.

Dave Freer said...

I'm definitely better with pressure - not TOO MUCH, but enough to say manana will NOT do.

Stephen Simmons said...

I love deadlines. I particularly like that "WHOOSH" noise they make as they go zipping by ...

I find that my writing does its level-best to try to make me procrastinate from writing. Any time I approach a spot in a current piece that is offering me any sort of challenge -- particlarly powerful emotions, or a spot where I've clearly gone off the rails and need to back the train up and try again, or whatever -- shiny NEW ideas promptly start to sprout up like crabgrass. Or the blogs start calling me, and the rationalizing-voice insists that that's still "writing-related-work" ...

Regional speech tags ... a creer in the Navy exposes you to colloquialisms from all over the country (America). Folks from the Midwest have a strong tendency to "take and do" things, rather than simply doing them. In smaller towns/cities in the interior portions of the southeast, people tend to shy away from overt "cuss words" except when they're really angry, substituting random other verbs in place of them. ("Blamed if I know ...") Also, the words used for a large sandwich served at a deli (hoagie/sub/grinder/etc) or a carbonated beverage marketed by the Coca-Cola company are wildly variable depending on what part of the country someone is from.

Chris L said...

I love accents when a writer pulls them off well. I've been trying recently with a few different voices in my stories.

I know Sarah has warned in the past not to go crazy with accents and that it can put readers off, but they can also be fun.

Some attempts:

Young Girl
'There’s enough slimy skin on the skull to hold the jaw on, and the death grin is, like, super-gross. I hit the GPS. Stupid GPS. Why did you make me dig up a grave? Now I’m going to get fired. My boss, Jan, is a bitch. In fact she’s Queen Superbitch of the Universe. She’ll fire me for sure.'

Private Dick
'The doll was gorgeous, a real knockout. Her legs were long and toned and ended in dagger-sharp stilettos. She wore a black coat, and maybe nothing underneath. She was smoking a long Jarrow with lips that were just too perfect. God only knew what that shit was doing to her dynamic filters.

She leaned forward, giving me an eyeful of rack, and stubbed out her cigarette with long fingers and shiny, painted nails. This doll had been built for one thing, and one thing only.'

Cockney Git
“Liar!” Mable Fallowfield screeched. “Whatever you was about t’say was a downright lie. I can tell a fibber when I see one.”
Mable was attracting a crowd now, and the people of Stonebridge didn’t take kindly to lying strangers, Moe knew this for a fact.
“Look,” he said, a note of resignation in his voice, he’d wanted to choose the moment of revelation himself rather than have it thrust upon him. “Truth be told—”
“Truth! Hah!” barked Mable, playing for the crowd, who responded with mutterings of agreement. “Somethin’ tells me that a word of truth from you, Mr Moley, would be as rare a thing as butter from a heifer’s teat!”

Interested to know if any of these ring true, or would they end up detracting from a story?

Chris L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate Paulk said...

Jeez, Dave, send me off on a dozen tangents at once, why don't you?

Okay... Queenslanders speak slowly. More slowly the further north you get, where there's this concept known as "tropical time" - like "manana" without the sense of urgency. There's also a tendency to end every sentence on a rising inflection. And that's without considering the tics that can be portrayed in writing.

The outback towns you'll often find bits of the local tribe's language creeping in, some of it borrowings from English of 150-some years ago. One town I lived in for a while, "gammon" was commonly used to mean anything from "bullshit" to "joking": "I was just gammon" (I was joking/teasing), "That's gammon" (It's bullshit). I haven't heard that particular usage outside a relatively small area.

Here in this corner of PA there's a lot of verbal quirks that I suspect came from the merging of PA "Dutch" with English - "Are you coming with?", "That needs fixed."

For procrastination, the best cure is a round tuit. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of fakes out there, a real round tuit is incredibly rare.

Stephen Simmons said...

Kate -- You mentioned colloquialisms formed by other languages creeping into local English usage. This is the shirt my daughter picked out at MarsCon this weekend:

"English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

Kate Paulk said...


I love that saying - it's so true!

Dave Freer said...

Chris L - the young Girl one worked, the private dick one didn't and the cockney one didn't for two reasons - 1)the sex of 'Mable' ? Mabel? jarred me right out, and 2)it's not quite right to me. Which is the difficulty of a placing your character in specific well known narrow niche.

Dave Freer said...

Stephen - that's what I mean by displacement activities. I've found various tricks to channel those into at least being constructive, if not linearly so.

And US regiona 'dialect'is the best reason I have come accross for having a local co-author. Keeping them seperate in your head is tricky

Dave Freer said...

Kate, careful measurement shows most tuits are not perfectly round.
Funny I thought tassie speech was slow, and Islander speech slower, for which I am very grateful!

Kate Paulk said...


Obviously the speed of speech drops dramatically as you get away from the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra triangle!

I found Islander speech patterns so close to "normal" that I suspect the speed is pretty close to Brisbane's.

All Australian speech is slower than any US dialect I've come across (I've heard this from 'Merkins who've visited, too). I suspect this may be why the 'Merkins regard Aussies as relaxed. Well, that and the idea that once you're away from work, you don't give work a second thought.

And yes. A truly round tuit is so rare. THey may have already been hunted to extinction.

Chris L said...

Cheers Dave,

Perhaps I should only choose ones I'm familiar with.

Dave Freer said...

Chris L - you asked so I gave an honest appraisal:-/ sorry. Yeah, - it's always tricky with one you're really not familiar with, especially one your readers might know better than you do (me writing Americans for Americans :-( )

MataPam said...

I'll admit to using these in a rough draft. But not word for word. Just a term or contraction, here or there is more than sufficient to make you sound like an idiot trying to sound cockney. So use very lightly - then go back and remove three out of four.