Friday, November 21, 2008

... writing badly, well

Jyre's letters are always fun. As Dusty pointed out to me previously, a young orphaned girl in a medieval inspired fantasy universe shouldn't be able to read or write. Well, it kind of debacles the whole story to change that, since it all started with the idea of Jyre pestering Nightfall with her letters. (Yes, I just used debacle as a verb.) This morning along with a little more explanation for why she can write, I did another revision of her first letter. I expect all of her others to get similar makeovers to this one.

I did something I had always resisted doing, and that was drastically changing the ‘tone’ of the letter by removing a lot of things which I saw as “chatty” habits or “sloppy” ways of making writing “bad”. The worst one was the use of ellipses everywhere. With… and… and... over and over, which is a very chatty thing to do, but I don’t think any child who is getting the hang of writing would ever do it. The next thing I did was remove all of the ‘yoda-speak,’ which is the way so many phrases were written backwards. Again, I don’t think any barely literate person would ever actually do that. Next, I removed most of the commas and apostrophes and indulged in the liberal use of the word “and”. I removed any ‘big’ words or complex phrases and tried to tell everything as simplistically as possible. I removed "I feel" or "I felt". I kept the verb tenses simple and often incorrect. I wanted to make it all one paragraph, as Jyre would likely not understand paragraph breaks, but that gets monotonous to read, so I just reduced the number. I put in two glaring mistakes… “a orphan” and “The Ladys House” … but I suspect even those will bug people. The challenge is to create something that looks like Jyre would actually write, but without frustrating the reader. That’s why she still has good spelling – though appropriate, I think that would do more harm to the reader’s experience than good.


ehcmier said...

Excellent! A child's letter can be written atrociously. A person may speak atrociously. The narrative may not, most of the time, and only to capture the idiom of the voice telling it. Unless the incorrect use is clever and/or charming, or pointedly irritating in a way that serves the story, it should be avoided. Glad to hear it!

Jyre's grammar skills shouldn't arc in such a short time without much practice. Perhaps if Cor had gotten ahold of her early on, then I could see a justification. :p

Dan said...

I am also finding that some of her narration used vocabulary that doesn't suit her character. I hope it's restricted to chapter 1, before I got the "hang" of writing for her. For instance... "consisting of rectangular and cylindrical units" was rewriten as "made from boxy and round bits" in the revision today. :P

Anarchic Fox said...

Good to pay attention to! Syntax is largely neurological and should be left intact. The mistakes that do appear in partly literate writing are misspelling, misusing punctuation, losing track of the structure of large sentences, and neglecting the tone or using a uniform tone. (From what I've seen.)