Thursday, June 18, 2020

Oh, for the love of language.

“Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

As writers, words are our tools, our weapons, our voice. And as writers that means we always need to be collecting new tools, sharpening our weapons, and improving our voice. How do we do that?

We listen.

I don’t believe it matters what genre you’re writing in, you’ve got to be able to listen to people. Not simply what language they’re speaking, (English, Spanish, French, etc.) but soak up their personal language. How do they use their words, what do they enunciate, what offends and what makes them laugh. 

You don’t have to go far for language to change either. For a broad example you can look at the US, there’s southern drawl to the long o’s of Northern MN…don’t ya know. 

For a specific example, when I was in high school my hometown used the word barr. 

Barr: something stupid, ridiculous, dumb. 

Our school’s top rival, the neighboring town, didn’t use barr. If you used it in that town...they knew exactly where you were from. By the way, the distance between these towns is about ten miles. 

What does that have to do with writing? 

If you can listen then you'll hear words used in ways you've never imagined. Our languages change all the time. If you doubt that, check out the yearly additions to the dictionary! If you can listen and understand people, you can write realistic characters. And that’s one thing that all books should have in common. 

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