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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Overview Setting: Language: Time

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Language choices can strengthen settings by giving a flavor of time, whether between generations or geographically. Even within a small local setting there may be different dialects or inflections that indicate both historical and personal history.

In the mystery TV series, Death in Paradise, the island population is a mix of British and French on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie. Their words, phrases, and accents clearly introduce viewers to their background without giving a detailed explanation.

Within families the language can also mirror cultural decades and/or education. In The Adventures of Pearley Monroe, by Marci Seither, the fictional adaptation of a real pioneer family, the language shows the difference between the uneducated adults and the present school opportunities for the children. What do you notice about the language in the following two excerpts?

“I hate those miners,” Pearley blurted out with anger. “I hate Mr. Yates and Gold Bug Mine. It wasn’t Rose’s fault she came into the world too early, it is theirs. No one can bring her back.”

“Pearley,” said Pa. “We have to let this thing go into God’s hands, cuz our hands is jist too small for this load of grief. You hear what I’m sayin’?”

Jack Hodgins suggests when listening in on conversations take notice of the rhythms, favorite expressions, and sentence lengths. This is important for us as writers for the younger age group because their style and vocabulary is different from what we grew up with.

He also suggests when listening study:

             “ a) level, type, and breadth of the person’s vocabulary (education)
  b) diction level (slang? colloquial? precisely scientific?)
  c) implied emotional states; present circumstances.”

Regional, ethnic, educational, and socioeconomic will be a factor in what kind of vocabulary you use. And also for speech patterns such as: you know, eh, bien, por favor.

Action Steps:

1.    Write a dialogue between two or three different characters of different ages without saying their age difference.

2.    Make a list of sayings or slang phrases that are familiar to you. Can you match the decade they came from and why?

Share: Which saying is the funniest?

Read deep, marcy

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