Monday, December 24, 2012

Mental Tongue Twisters

I've had a few ideas percolating around in my brain lately (why is eggnog so delicious, will these cookies really go straight to my love handles, how feasible is it to take a redeye to see my boyfriend for about 4 hours, maybe this manuscript can write itself...okay, but I swear there are a couple pertaining to a blog post!), so here I am finishing up a blog post at 11 PM on Christmas Eve. Well, I live 3000 miles from anyone I'd want to spend Christmas with, so it's no skin off my back! Besides, I'm so full with hot spiced cider and eggnog that I could not possibly go to bed right now.

I Stumble my way around the internet a lot, and the other day I came across a list of 11 tongue twisters. Of course, human nature being what it is, I had to try them out. Some were easy, some were hard, and it wasn't always the obvious ones either. But I thought I made a pretty passable attempt at them in just my first couple tries. Proof:

Yup, I was way too proud of myself. But I had fun!

Okay, so, writing. Phew.

This collided with some other thoughts I had been having about writing, specifically in regards to naming and dialogue. I've been struggling with finding the right balance of naming in my current work. It takes place about 500 years in the future, so is Bob Smith a realistic name? And I came across this great quote on my @AdviceToWriters feed: "Realist dialogue doesn’t exist. We are all actors and we all play roles." (Jospeh L. Mankiewicz).

So what great conclusion did I draw from this weird amalgam of tongue twisters, unique names, and good dialogue? Don't use tongue twisters in your names or dialogue!

Seriously. I know it sounds kind of stupid, but it's astonishing how often this is ignored. Especially in SFF. Sure, you're a writer. Words on the page is your business. K'en'tisdl YuOli'main looks awesome on the page (it doesn't), so what does it matter? Because anyone who is reading that is going to react to it, and not in a "Wow, he sounds like a really great guy that could totally save the world even though he's just a farmboy" kind of way. They'll try to say it out loud, and they won't be able to. Yes, even with your handy pronunciation guide in the glossary. And then every time they come across the name, it will just be a blur of nonsense to them. He'll probably become "Ken" or "that K guy," and it's hard to get personally invested in someone you think of as "that K guy."

This same thing applies to dialogue. If you try to read your dialogue out loud, and your mouth has difficult making the words, then it's not good dialogue. It's someone trying to sound fancier than they are. So unless that very specific effect is what you are going for, avoid the stilted speech. Characters aren't going to be any better at spouting "She stood on a balcony mimicking him hiccuping while amicably welcoming him in" than you or I are.

So, as sad as it makes me, I think it's probably time to admit that the surname Ykterby, which I was rather fond of for one of my secondary characters, is getting the axe.

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