Friday, September 14, 2012

It's All In How You say It

Though I think that writing in dialect is typically something best left up to the likes of Mark Twain and Toni Morrison, I do occasionally think about the way people say things.

Accents fascinate me, though the range of ones that I can imitate is limited. Irish, sure, but not such that would fool anybody from Ireland. Same with Southern. Once upon a time, I had a CD given to me by a friend that was theatre material, coaching you how to appropriately do a British accent. I was all right with that for awhile, when I still knew where the CD was. I also managed a "pirate" accent for a little while, after watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie far too many times (if there is such a thing, though the first is the best of the series I feel.

But anyway. When I'm reading a novel or a short story, somebody has to really hit that voice right if they're going to try and write it in dialect. I'm not talking about the occasional "ain't". I mean full on shortening of words, anastrophe, whole nine. It can be garish and irritating, or it can be pitch perfect. I'm not sure where the balance is, really, and mostly avoid it. That isn't to say my characters are always grammatically correct; I do still try to phrase things the way people say them. I just don't do spelling gymnastics in an effort to make you understand how they're saying what they're saying.

The way people say different words definitely interests me. Sometimes I hear it in a different way and keep that with me in my mind, turning it over like a found coin. Sometimes I hear a way that's familiar, and I realize that's how I've heard it, or say it myself, but hadn't become aware until I heard if from a stranger's mouth.

Do you enunciate "twenty"? Or do you say "twenny"? Do you say "pocketbook" (if you even use the word "pocketbook") or do you say "pockabook"?

Of course, there are funny ones. "Fiddy" instead of "fifty". "Ermahgerd" instead of "Oh My God".

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Remember

I remember September 11. Of course I do.

Have I commemorated September 11? No, I don't think I have.

Or maybe I have. I didn't post, repost, or share any memes on Facebook. I'm not sure that's the way to go. I read articles about the Search and Rescue teams that were there. I looked at pictures of the dogs from those teams who are still alive. I read a book by one of the forensic anthropologists who worked there, for weeks, to identify the dead.

September 11 was not a personal tragedy for me. I was very lucky; I didn't know anybody who died. As an American, it unsettled me, it scared me, it made me wonder how the world would be. It's made air travel horrible. Through war, it's killed a lot more people than those who died on that date. It polarized a presidency, and it was such an affront, such an unspeakable thing, that even now people have a very visceral reaction to its mention. You can still buy the t-shirt, though.

September 11 (which I never call 9/11, by the by. I'm not morally against it; it's just the way my brain settled) is something like my generation's Pearl Harbor, JFK. I can still remember the surreal footage of my life, how I found out, when I first saw those smoking towers against a blue sky, on a small television atop somebody's dorm fridge. It's impossible to forget.

I'm not really sure what factors have to come together to instantly crystallize an imagine in your mind, full sensory, to be played and paused like a film of your life. Some memories are more vivid than others; frequently the bad ones, I think? Is it the adrenaline dump? Is it the certainty of inexorable change?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Curse of Imagination

I spend a lot of time dwelling in my imagination.

It's where I go when a certain thing (word, phrase, scent, scene) catches my fancy. It's where I go before I fall asleep. It's where I go when I write. It's where I go when I sit down of an evening to roll dice with friends.

As a writer, and a role player, one strives to render the tactile mental. How do you describe the feel of the rain? The smell of dinner cooking? The washer banging on the spin cycle? How do you describe the tightening of your belly when you hear somebody scream outside, only to realize it's just a drunk college student, but now your scalp is tingling and your eyes see too much and you have to wait for the adrenaline to wear off before you can go back to bed?

When you get it right, when you're so immersed in your head-words that the reality before you fades at the edges and gets hazy with your imagining, it's magical. This immersion leaves you feeling dazed when it's time to be done, wake up, turn the computer off, put the dice back in the bag. It leaves you with imaginary scents, and colors. It leaves you looking at things that you don't recognize, but feel as though you ought.

The problem, though. Sometimes there are situations you hear about, in the news mostly, and reactions are of shock, visceral and wordless. You think "oh no" you think "I'm sorry" and so many people say "I just can't imagine...."

When you are a dreamer, you can imagine. It doesn't render the unspeakable any more understandable, it doesn't make you better. It certainly helps lend to the truth of your dreams, dimension to your song. It is an empathy that can't be taught, and indeed you might not even know you have it until you get that twist in your stomach one day when you hear of a tragedy that isn't yours, not really. Until you imagine somebody's last moments as though a dream, or vision, or well rendered film.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Writing outside your box

We all have a type of story we like.

I tend to write male protagonists, or female ones that lack feminine personality qualities. Mostly because I lack many of those qualities; girly girls irritate me, frequently, I don't get them in any kind of nuanced or detailed way.

But, occasionally, it's good to write something that you don't know. To step outside of the box or the cave or the secret fairy forest that you go to when you're in your creative space, trying to work your magic. Just out of college, I wrote a few short stories that were deliberate "chick in chain mail with big sword" fantasy, with a slightly hapless male sidekick. No romance involved, just hero --> problem --> solution style. Those didn't get me published either, of course, but they got me the first (and only, if I remember aright) personalized rejection I've had to date.

Now, with everybody in a frenzy over Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, I've wondered about why people latched onto it. In fact, my coworker and  I have a game we play. When one of the books comes across the desk (and no patrons are within earshot) we open it at random and read a couple of sentences aloud. Romance, you may have guessed, is not my genre. Erotica isn't either. However, I got the idea for a story that I could make fit into that genre.

The idea is kind of cheesy, has a mythology attachment, and will have a somewhat girly girl main character, her flamboyant gay friend, glitz and glamor and sex. I don't really write sex; we'll see how this goes. If it goes; it might still just be an amusing idea.

It's hard to think outside your box. Even when I wrote chick in chainmail fantasy, it was still writing that I tried to make as solid as possible. I tried to build something that I would want out of such a genre piece. Maybe that would be the key to breaking down this wall too, who knows?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


I was stung by a wasp while walking Elka today.

At least I think it was a wasp. I felt the sharp pain on the inside of my right bicep and of course slapped it, then stomped on whatever the crumply corpse was that fell to the sidewalk. I'm not allergic to anything that I've encountered yet (Thank God), so I wasn't overly concerned. Just irritated, and now slightly hurting.

It was on the return trip, so we had less than a mile to go. I tried not to think about my exercise heightened heartbeat pumping poison around. Not allergic, remember! I checked the swelling once in awhile. Yup, looks like a wasp sting. No stinger left in the skin, either, which seemed like a decent tipoff. I wonder where the little fuck came from; I heard no buzzing, saw no nest, and there was only the one. At least it was me and not the dog.

Once home, I did what any good citizen of the Internet would do and consulted WebMd (well, I consulted The Google, and felt WebMd was my best bet.) Remove the stinger; check. Wash the site with cold water; check. Make a paste with baking soda to draw out the poison.

"Draw out the poison?" Doesn't that seem a big like an old wives' tale? Or like what they say in Old wives' tales? Really, though, I'm of the firm belief that baking soda is magical fairy dust. It does amazing things when I use it to clean my stove, or the rare occasions I have a burned pan! Really, WebMD said "baking soda or meat tenderizer", but I know from jellyfish experience that whoever slipped the meat tenderizer in there is an advocate of Satan. It makes whatever pain you felt from the initial sting multiply, and also burn. But, which are you more likely to have on a beach vacation, baking soda or meat tenderizer? Yeah.

So after the baking soda paste, and putting some ice on it, it looks pretty much exactly the way it did in the first place. Maybe it hurts less? Maybe the swelling is lower? I probably could've just left it alone too and had similar outcomes.