Saturday, April 16, 2011

ABC, L for Linguistik (linguistics/language)

Lord of the Rings, Extended DVDs, Bonus Material: Different takes of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn sitting in the Golden Hall of Meduseld speaking to Theoden: "Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not."
The same words over and over again, but every take slightly different: some more emphasis here, a touch of higher voice there ... and suddenly this 12 words became a slightly different message. It's amazing, what an actor can do only with his voice, using modulation, articulation, accentuation and/or intonation to give the words intensity and depth.

Bad news: A writer doesn't have these tools.
Good news: A writer doesn't have to make such an effort with each and every single sentence, but IF then there are quite a few other options to play with words and language:

Even on paper we can show the reader, what's important. Have a look:
»He was not the person I thought.«
»He was not the person I thought.«
»He was not the person I thought.«
»You!« vs. »YOU!!!«
Can you hear the differences?

I remember a particular lesson in elementary school, when our teacher tried to convince us to use other words than 'to go'. Give it a thought: How many synonyms can you find?

In most of the cases a simple 'he/she said' is enough, but sometimes it really helps to extend the vocabulary, e.g.:
  • With his dark booming voice he shouted at her.
  • He wanted to hold her close in his arms, when she whispered with her tiny voice like a little helpless mouse.
This extended vocabulary is not only limited to voices, but of course to all actions and descriptions!

You won't make your readers believe a person coming from Bavaria with speaking perfectly High German, BUT if you only write like a Bavarian person speaks, you'll risk losing your readers, because they simply don't understand what they are reading! Honestly, even I wouldn't understand everything! So, use local dialects, but decently!

Oh, the same naturally counts for all the English speaking folks, no matter if he/she comes from England, Canada or Texas! This time, I'm glad to be a bit late, because Carol's written a wonderful post about exactly this topic! Continue reading at L is for Language and Dialect

Could you imagine strong alpha male warriors, dressed in black leather and equipped with loads of armor, fighting a vicious enemy, speaking lovely, neatly, like perfect gentlemen? Here you simply need heavy street slang with phrases like 'Fuck you!' and words like 'Shitkicker'!

So, use the slang the characters would use in their natural environment! It makes them more real!

Have you ever read 'Forrest Gump'? The book is written in the same style like the person Forrest Gump is: easy, naive, simple minded. On the contrary 'The Illustrated A Brief History of Time' by Stephen Hawking. Even if it's said to be illustrated and comparatively easy to his normal books, it's stuffed with all the technical terms from physics, astrology and other sciences, not the most easiest lecture to follow.

In both cases, the stock of words is appropriate to its content! If needed, it's useful to add a lexicon or glossary for explanations!

Oh, I'm sure, there are quite some more options to play with words and language, but I guess, you know where I'm heading. Those techniques, well used, help your reader to get more and more into your world, your scenes and your characters ... and the movie in their heads becomes more alive!


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