On Language

Language is the fun stuff for me. I tend to enjoy how words go together, support each other, negate each other, conjure feelings, memories, sights and sounds, or just plain make us think. There are masters of language that can do all of that without you ever knowing. I wish I could tell you what it takes to get there, but if I knew that, I suppose I'd not be blogging about indie authorship... At least I've made myself some guidelines for how the language of Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire is structured, and those things contribute to my 'style,' I suppose.

Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire is something of a historic fantasy. The world is imagined, but it's inspired by Feudal Japan... in some regards. I tried very hard to keep it free of idioms. A sixteenth century Samurai would not have known the games of baseball or poker, so something can't happen "off the bat," and he can't have something "in spades." There's a whole lot of common sayings that wouldn't have meaning back then. Now I'm no expert, so if some made it through, I guess they weren't that obvious to me. I can live with that ;)

One of my favorite pieces to building the story was naming the characters and chapters. On the first page, we learn that Tsukiko has cursed her name. Tsukiko means child of the moon, and she lives a nocturnal life. There will definitely be more to that in the sequel, too. Every name was chosen with care and it says something about where they're headed, whether it's readily apparent or not. (There are a few names chosen to pay homage, but those are more for the minor characters - for instance, my famed sword master is based on a historical figure and named after my favorite chef).

The title of every single chapter is a string of exact words from that chapter. Sometimes it's clear what they'll mean at the onset; sometimes it's not. Sometimes they are words of dialogue; sometimes not. (Dialogue will be its own blog shortly). Some will serve to misdirect; others will be straight forward. Many of them are plays on words. Almost every title, though, means something important to the moment, but monumental to the story. If you read it already, how many did you catch?

This is a book for both young and old. Appropriate language can be challenging when casting a wide net. I think there's one swear in the whole thing, and it happens to be one of my favorites. But I wanted to tell this story with words that didn't rely on shock and without being overly offensive. Don't get me wrong, in real life, I have a penchant for profanity. Also, I REALLY enjoy reading it (shout out to Jeff O'Brien who is a modern master the dirty written word). For this project, though, it didn't seem right. This an important decision to make and stick with when defining your style for a particular piece. But if you need to swear, be my fucking guest.

Word choice and flow is pretty important. I edit with voice over software and I listen carefully for repeats. Words shouldn't get in the way of what you are saying. I guess it bugs me more when multiple sentences in a row repeat the same words like 'because' or 'therefore' than even being overly adverby. (I know that for many, adverbs in particular are cringe worthy - I won't say that I never use them... If I do, though, it's sparing and I happened to like the way it flowed when read aloud). Beyond that, though, there are some words that are just fun to say together.

Some of my own consistent bits of editing fodder relate to tense. For some reason, my narrator keeps wanting to say 'now' and 'today,' but those don't jive so well with that which has happened. Edit for tense carefully...

There are certainly others, but the big idea, especially for us indie authors, is to be conscious of your style while you find your voice. It takes time to perfect, but make every word along the way your own. Write with the language that you want to read. If you stay true to that, some will love it, and everyone else will just be wrong.


P.S. - I'm not officially doing NaNoWriMo... I know I can't commit to keeping up this month and don't want to undermine everyone else's hard work and dedication. So far my November word count is somewhere around 3K or so. If I finish chapter 12 this month, I'll be thrilled. It's a biggie, and there will be some sweet Dragon action. But to everyone else: Good luck! And keep up the good work.

P.P.S. - I've popped this season's first tin of McClelland's Christmas Cheer. It's a beautiful thing...