Monolingualism Isn't the Rule, but How Do We Make Fiction Do the Thing? | #WritingShenangians

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hello, dear readers. I KNOW, I KNOW. I've been absent for too long and you miss me oh, so dearly. I'm sorry to have deprived you of my magnificent presence. However, here I am and I promise I will try and blog more regularly. Let's just say life got a little too intense for a sec there and my motivation was lost somewhere back in 2013.

Enough of my rambling. You're here because you want good content, dammit! So today to bestow the title of Writing Shenanigans upon this post we shall speak about a favorite topic of mine: language! I'm a linguistics major* in university and that just means I'm crazy about language and the intricate ways our minds work about it.

It's no secret I'm a big advocate for languages other than English being a prominent thing in books. I wrote a post all about this very thing back when I bothered to post regularly (you can check it out here) but it's basically about how most of the world speaks more than one language and how fiction should reflect that. It's all very personal to my excitable and often confused bilingual brain.

actual representation of a conversation with my friends

*this means I sit around with my classmates and make a bunch of weird sounds and write in weird symbols which sounds way cooler than it it.

You say, that is all good and well, Laura, but what the hell does that have to do with writing? Patience, little grasshoppers, all in good time. First, a little background on my magnificent word-weaving, since this is after all the first installment of Writing Shenanigans.

Yours truly is currently trying to write a book. A hopeful endeavor that has consisted mostly of amassing a small fortune of pins over at Pinterest and not much writing. WE ALL START SOMEWHERE, OKAY? However, two of my characters speak languages other than English* and I've found that incorporating that into the story has been a bit of a challenge.

I'm still playing around with POV, but I definitely want one of my bilingual characters as a POV character. Only problem is that she is Korean-American. I know a bit of Korean. Basic stuff, really. My other character speaks Spanish. Perfectly fluent in that, although my parents might beg to differ. They're wrong. Languages grow all the time and my syntax is a bit wonky sometimes, BUT THAT IS CHARMING! That little tirade, however, brings me to my point. How do we make fiction do the thing bilingual (or multilingual) people do in their heads all the time?

actual face my parents make when I say something weird

*they also speak English, but I guess that's pretty self-explanatory.

And at last we have gotten to the very heart of this post. The thing I found while trying to incorporate other languages into my work is that it's freaking hard. Specially when my other MC doesn't really understand either of these languages. Oh, and when I barely know some of the other language my MC logically thinks and speaks in. Not all the time, but some of the time.

So, how do we all go about doing this thing people have no problem doing in their everyday lives and not make it wonky and weird in fiction? I see why so many writers take the easy way out and just brush it over. But, my dudes, language is a big part of who we are as people. Some would argue it's kind of who we are, or at least how we express ourselves.

As such, here we are with a big problem in our hands. JUST HOW DO WE MAKE FICTION DO THE THING WHERE LANGUAGES OTHER THAN THE ONE WE ARE WRITING IN JUST EXIST INSIDE THE MIND AND OUT IN THE WORLD??????? Can you feel the frustration?

My first thought was, just have the character translate. That's lazy and wrong and I'm just not for it because as a bilingual person myself I know that I sometimes think in English and sometimes in Spanish and that I use these two languages interchangeably and it's all as comfortable as slipping into another pair of shoes. I don't really have to think about it much, my brain and my lips just do. Even more so when I'm drunk. * SO HOW DO I MAKE THIS COME ACROSS ON THE PAGE????

My second thought was... well just throw in some words here and there. Some pauses** and lag time for certain complicated words. But I wanted my characters to speak and think in their other languages. Not only randomly say stuff in them. What about when they're with family? They would probably be thinking and speaking in their other language or in a mix of both. It all felt very complicated. Because, well, language is a complicated thing.

Then I figured I would just try and incorporate language like I use it everyday. Keyword being try because sadly enough fiction can do things we don't do everyday, but has a hard time with things we do everyday. Is it going to be hard? Probably. Am I up to the challenge? Definitely. If other authors can incorporate other languages, even made up ones, I can find a way too.

*my friends and I have been known to hold a conversation in at least 3 languages when drunk
**we multilinguals are known to speak slower, even if we're balanced bilinguals or extremely fluent in both languages

What are some ways you can think of to incorporate other languages into your writing? Like seriously, I could use all the help I can get.

Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson | Book Review

Friday, May 26, 2017
Title: Seeking Mansfield
Author: Kate Watson
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: May, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram's son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver's constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she'd finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram's, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver's stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her. But Finley doesn't want to be won, and she doesn't want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver's heart—and keep her own—she'll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

What I thought

I picked up Seeking Mansfield seeking a cute contemporary. Spring time does that to me. Suddenly all I want of life is some disgustingly cute things happening for lack of disgustingly cute things in my life. So, here I am embarking on this journey. Now, I didn't know that this was a sort of retelling of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen going in. Not that I've read the original, but I figured this was still useful information to know.

So, here I am embarking on this journey and though I admit I had a hard time getting into it. Fin was kind of hard to empathize with at first. However, soon I found myself in the swing of things and actually invested in the character's fates. If you follow me on Goodreads (and if you don't what the hell are you waiting for?) you know that I was living for Harlan Crawford* and his romance with Finley. However, Oliver was also a sweetheart and the real MVP. He just was the whole package and I wish the book had included more of their romance. Just because I was really in the mood for disgustingly cute

*regrettable decision, really. I just love me some asshole turned sweetheart arc.

Now, the writing wasn't anything out of this world, but it was fun and quirky. It certainly made me wish I knew more about movies. The technical knowledge of this and theater made this book fun to read. I like theater, but plenty of my friends love it and I never quite had a good grasp on exactly what putting a production on stage entailed. You can tell the author is also passionate about theater. Or at least I imagine she is.

I liked the book. It wasn't a five star book for me, but it was very enjoyable and it was certainly cute. Harlan Crawford was the best for a while there and then he was the worst. Emma is enjoyable, as well and I wish she had gotten off better. Fin and Oliver are super cute and their story was certainly compelling. Over all, a very nice contemporary to hold you over the spring/summer time.