Monday, December 19, 2005

More Mechanics

I got in doo-doo a while ago when I posted some excerps of the WIP by producing a minor character who Spoke in capitals on occasion.
The practical reason was to save italics for internal monologue of significance. The MC has a little voice who offers acerbic advice at crucial moments.
Now cynical writers sometimes tend to jump on these two physical mechanics of delineating a character's voice as a cliche device.
But is it, really?
Writers do not look at script the same way as readers do. To put it another way, writers are no longer virgins regarding the mechanics of communication. Writers tend to strip every ms like a wolf on a streetcorner and toss the undersilkies aside. Or like a divorce judge I once knew, "Forget the preliminaries, let's get down to the screwing."
To readers these mechanics are comfortable signposts, read subliminally to a degree. They don't always mind the underclothes. They may expect them.
Makes me wonder what's going to be on the blacklist next.
We've all met the office diva who turns a simple flat on her way to work into a dramatic tragedy.
Which reminds me of another mechanical technique.
The character's name.
The name should fit the character and the character's voice.
That's another mechanic.
The character who Spoke that way was called Miss Cheltingham.

20 comments:

Ric said...

Sorry, Bernita. I still disagree with your use of this device. It is distracting. I've always been taught that anything that detracts the reader's attention from the story is Not Good. The use of flying caps, like crayon fonts, will draw the reader from the story.
I might be wrong, however. Certainly have been before, like that time I thought playing Naked Twister would be a good idea for the New Year's Eve party....

Bernita said...

That was MY lampshade, Ric...remember?
I just don't happen to think it does.

AE Rought said...

As a writer, I strip EVERYTHING now, movies, lyrics, books, rp. (About the only thing I don't dissemble are blog posts.) But, I do try to keep an ms readable for the readers, not just me. I guess there is something to be said for comfort. :)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Sorry Ric, you're outnumbered. I agree with Bernita.

Every writer has to develop their own voice. If Bernita's voice is using CAPS for a character...that's her voice, as long as she does it effectively.

I know a Christian mystery writer, Brandilyn Collins who effectively uses nouns as verbs...that's part of her voice.

The trick is finding an agent and editor who agree with your voice and don't try to denude you!!

M. G. Tarquini said...

I have no strong feelings about this one way or the other. I went through a manuscript recently and downgraded any caps to italics. If you mean the leading caps like Not Good...hmmm..I have a couple of places where that is used but only when a story has been told so many times that it's pretty much achieved a title.

Writing is such a minefield.

Bernita said...

Leading caps, yes.
Not new.
I think the first time I saw it used was in Heyer.
Don't think the character would be half as funny without them.
They tell you everything you need to know about her personality.
That and the fact she should never, never wear red.

Robyn said...

It depends. To Kill A Mockingbird had a fabulous passage where Dill was patiently enduring his aunt's scolding: That's All the Harris Coming Out In You, You'll Be the Death of Me, etc. It worked.

Bernita said...

My manners.
Thank you for the support, Bonnie.
And whether it will work or not depends on how well I may have done it, not by some arbitrary rule.

Bernita said...

Is there anyone who does NOT like that book?
I surely do.
Thank you for another example, Robyn.

Muse said...

Hmm. I'd guess that the use of capitals is analogous to any of a number of other dialogic devices, and is probably quite similar to having a character speak in dialect. I don't care for entire books written in dialect, because they tend to reduce characters to caricatures. But dialect (or the use of capitals, or any similar device) can be exceptionally effective when caricature is the *purpose* of a passage. As I recall (and I've had the advantage of a full read), Bernita's Miss Cheltingham appears for only a few pages, and seems to be drawn to exemplify certain characteristics of the English hostess. Perhaps Miss Cheltingham's passages could be redrawn to make this more subtle, but while reading, sometimes I really do enjoy being reminded that the characters might actually speak aloud.

(That is, when I must read dialogue at all: my personal preference, both in reading and in writing, is for characters who enact metaphors rather than speaking at all.)

Bernita said...

Muse is one of my beta readers.

Tsavo Leone said...

I remember it as if it were a meal ago...

Given the nature of the character in question, that being her (apparently) prim-and-proper upper-middle class Englishness, I'm going to go back and re-read the Miss Cheltingham piece again before commenting further on how well it enhances her character.

I mentioned in a previous post/comment that I'm game for the use of whatever trick/tool gets the job done, and I can see the benefits of this particular 'sleight of hand' from a writer's perspective. It (theoretically) adds weight or emphasis to particular words when reading them back, thus re-inforcing the character.

My only concern is as to whether the reader would recognise this as being a trait of the character without some subtle (or not so subtle) reference to the particular linguistic characteristic (our 'pleeceman' again) being 'shown'.

This does seem to tie in rather too nicely with the underlying theme over the last few days to be a coincidence... What gives?

Bernita said...

Which evil plot is this?

Tsavo Leone said...

Oh, you know, the dialogue, the tagging of dialogue, identifying a character's voice... Just wondering if there might be a reason why all things speech-related have come to the fore?

(It's the warlock in me, doncha know)

Bernita said...

Logical association and progression - at least avec moi, mon mechante.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yikes! Tsavo, you're letting yourself go...Now you look like Jason.

I prefer the other one because I can imagine the earring in your left ear:-)

Dennie McDonald said...

And whether it will work or not depends on how well I may have done it, not by some arbitrary rule. I think this says it all.

If you look at some of the best known current writers, you will find that they do not "follow the rules" at all. They have a niche that works for them and they do it well. And that is what the readers buy.

Readers don't care if you head hop, have 8 pov characters or use caps (well some do but they are writers - I guarentee it) if they like you. They will buy it!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Dennie. Dennie is just nice.

Bernita said...

Hmmm.
To me it looks like a goalie mask, Bonnie.

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