bITS 'N CHUNKS
While milling about in a bookstore one day I came across a book called Cold Sassy Tree. My friend informed me she had to read it for school (I did not) and didn't care for it because it was written by a Yankee and written entirely in dialect.
"Eaux," I said and set the book back down.
Now, as it turns out Olive Ann Burns is very Southern and lived in and around the south pretty much her whole life, but a modern southern writer writing entirely in dialect was still kind of weird to me because we tend to avoid overuse. I think we all generally follow the advice of Flannery O'Connor and use dialect like a "spice". I don't think that's a specific thing to Southern literature but we all do seem to be weirdly self-conscious of it, probably because a lot of things written in Southern dialect are either inaccurate or meant as a parody.
Anyway, I think about using slang and dialect a lot. I use it as a spice too but I'm not afraid to make a few regional jokes and sometimes I don't give a damn if the audience gets it or not. Like we can all make jokes about gentrification but what about arguments over which meat 'n three is the best?
Slang serves a lot of purposes for me. In theory you set the stage and tell the audience where the story is taking place, but very region specific slang lets you know exactly where we are. Someone using gang terminology is either initiated or a wannabe and you get to set the context. Certain things even clue you in to what year it is. Using slang incorrectly may show a character as uncool or dated.
In the old days, using more slang and dialect was my version of reclaiming my identity as a black author and a sign that I had stopped being afraid of admitting my Southern heritage. I even sneak in a few Southern Gothic tropes. These days, the internet will have you thinking that slang and cultural languages belong to everyone so it's getting a little murky for it to serve the purposes it once did. For me, anyway. I still sneak in little easter eggs every now and then and hope someone picks 'em up. Like a Bat-signal.
Back to the bullshit everyone,
So...this became my sort of Dark Tower homage I think. I enjoyed the concept of the story and the main character but I lost a lot of steam with it, so you'll see later I tried to write another one and lost steam AGAIN before I just took a break and said nah. I think I know what I want to do with him I just need to give his story time to percolate. Meanwhile, this is technically the end and the other one is the...middle? Man, writing is fuckin' weird.
I told y'all I didn't mind making a spectacle of myself, see above. Anyway.
Thanks to many years of data entry & not properly taking care of my hands even before then, I have the grip of a child and the hand strength of an even weaker child. In other words, bullshit.
Yes, it's joint pain and it's actually not that bad and fixable, but it's made me pretty possessive with what I spend my time doing. If I don't hold something heavy for you I'm not trying to be rude but likely I literally cannot. It doesn't take very much humidity for me to go from Feelin' Fine to Charlie Horse in Every Finger.
Naturally, you can imagine how this has affected my writing choices. I noticed over time I cut down on a lot of purple prose not just because my preferences changed but also I was eager to get to the damn point before my hands started swelling up. This was back when I was doing half/half paper writing and digital; then I switched to all digital and the habit carried over. I find myself over embellishing a lot because I feel bad that I can't do long stretches of inventive writing anymore. I take frequent breaks to do some thumb exercises.
The pain and frustration of my lack of mobility in my hands and fingers crops up quite a bit as a theme for me too. Pain just kind of pisses me off.
I love the feel of writing on notebook paper and filling up a big journal or five subject college rule with my tiny ass cursive and ludicrous stories to type up later. I love being able to get my ideas down immediately. But as I work in increasingly secure & paper free places, that becomes less of a reality for me. And I was spending more time rotating my wrists and rubbing them than scribbling.
So after a while I was told about Evernote. I think I've detailed my relationship with Evernote. But anyway, being able to write on my phone was great. It was essentially the same thing as paper for me and I could use a stylus on my tablet. I got pretty good with my thumbs.
Until I wore my thumbs down by typing on decidedly un-ergonomic tablets and phones not suited for that purpose. Not very punk.
So I've still been largely computer writing when I can but I would like to get back to pen and paper because I still feel like it just worked for me, despite its inconveniences. They do make writing tools and aids for people like me that have a hard time. And, a lot of the options aren't terribly expensive either. The one I'm most interested in is the ring pen model, which takes a different approach to finding ways to shove the barrel of the pen or body of the pencil against soft fleshy parts that probably already hurt.
Sitting versus standing is a big part of it, too. Surprising no one, from working at office jobs with often inconsiderate and uncomfortable chairs (and only doing so much to remedy it myself), my back and legs aren't in too good condition these days either. The main appeal of paper & pen writing is I could comfortably lay down and still do a little work. Mobile writing is the same way, but not quite as comfortable or flexible.
You might wonder, why not try out the voice to text software? I do use those but not for complete writing, not even for drafts really. If it's accessible for you I do recommend trying it. But as for me, I'm like two notches below Truman Capote and I do not like the sound of my own voice even in my own head, so I would just rather not.
My template for titling thing probably comes from cryptic anime OVA titles from the late-80s/early-90s and industrial music. Not lurid because a lot of them were pretty self-explanatory (although yes some look like straight giallo titles), but some of the more "poetic" translations of titles not easily rendered into English. Nowadays when it's like that, we just call them by their Japanese title. But back then, boy did we try it. Come on, how many of y'all thought that man's name was actually Tenchi Muyo?
Manga and video games got this a lot too. I didn’t really get the art of titling even when I started writing my own things, I kind of got that they had to be descriptive of what was going on in the story but I had no template for it. I wasn't sure how to render it. When I looked at the writers I loved, especially in the fantasy genre, I wasn't sure how as to pick their minds on why they came up with The Hellbound Heart and not Hellraiser for example. So I had a lot of pedestrian and cliché story titles that weren't really evocative of what was going on.
When I started reading doujinshi I kind of got a template. Now, mind you most of the doujinshi I read was pornographic in nature so the titles were an indicator of what kind of porn you were getting into. Some were Japanese, some were translated to English or another language I could reasonably understand. But I got it. Titles like Lascivious Mother told you exactly what was going on, who the main character was, and something about them. It reminded me of the quaint old timey titles you'd see on 15th-18th century literature which basically told you the whole story on two lines. So I started doing that in so many words. I also learned about parody titles and as I wrote mostly comedy at the time, that worked out fantastic.
I got cryptic sometimes too. I learned how to use SEO and clickbait to ensure my stories never made it to general search but at least a handful of people would read them. Titling didn't finally click for me until I was writing and reading essays in high school. I learned how to summarize my own subject matter and describe it in so many words so that it looked inviting but kind of standard to protocol. Nothing too wild. I was introduced to the concept of using a quote from yourself or another author that invoked the subject at hand. My favorite part of the story is the reveal of the title - what it really meant this whole time, what it related to. Blogging also helped a lot. People don't have a lot of time to spare and blogging will make you frank.
As I'm often inspired by movies and music, one thing I did to differentiate my professional writing from my fannish stuff was use movie quotes and snippets of song lyrics. I tried not to be terribly obvious about it. I still do this to an extent I just don't rely on it as hardcore as a I used to. I got a lot of hits with Duran Duran…
When I switched over to short stories permanently (seemingly), my titles got about as abbreviated as the content. Usually now it's reduced to the antagonist, a main character, whatever is at stake, a location, or something just plain ol' cryptic for the sake of being cryptic and interesting. That’s where I draw my titling inspiration from these days. I've been trying to broaden myself out lately because titling is still one of those things that is innate for me, so I've been checking out this, this, and this. (PDF)
I figured I would start off with something I actually enjoyed and ended up being helpful. If you follow me on social media, you may have heard back in August I had a death in my immediate family. In the midst of all that, I was also going through some pretty heavy shit before and after. I'm the exact opposite of religious but there are times when I take comfort in religious ceremony and, strangely enough, orthodox practices. What I'm trying to say is, I was watching The Last Temptation of Christ and made a connection with Lazarus of Bethany.
This actually ended up on my AO3 account which I will never share so if you see it there and here just remember real Gs move in silence! Omerta and all that!
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...