Friday, December 28, 2007

For Writer's Only . . .

One problem I've had with my manuscript is explaining Cajun sayings and unique aspects of the setting without violating p.o.v.

For example: Louisiana has Parishes, not Counties. I decided that since my characters would have no reason to ponder this fact I would not explain - beyond the context - to the reader what a Parish is. However, a publisher who - God bless 'em - read my entire manuscript has suggested that I explain to the reader what a Parish and other unique aspects of the setting are. So I did. But I can't help but think that it violates one of the "Don't's" of writing. Of course, if the publisher wants it - they get it.

Consider this excerpt from Dean Koontz's The Darkest Evening of The Year:

----"How did your parents meet, anyway? Working on a whaling ship? Blubber and ambergris and love at first sight? Hey, did Mookie meet with Janet Brockman yet?"
----Mukai Chiboku--Mookie to his friends--was Dani's husband and Golden Heart's attorney.
----"He's going to handle her divorce pro bono," Dani said. "The little boy and girl half broke his heart."

Would you consider this (the second paragraph) author intrusion?

Btw, notice that he uses italics and the word "was". Both of which I find completely acceptable. Without the italics, that sentence reads differently. Any thoughts?


donna fleisher said...

Well, poisonally, I think it works beautifully, cuz it is a wee bit along the lines of what Dani could be thinking at that moment. It's not blatant author intrusion or invasion of Dani's pov cuz it's short, to the point, and blended in with the dialogue. It's presented in her voice. This, I believe, is the more important thing to worry about -- not invading in on her voice, even if it does sorta invade on her pov. Does this make sense?

I would, however, suggest putting this line and her line of dialogue in the same paragraph, cuz it's her thinking it (not directly in italics but as internal monologue) and then her speaking. By putting her actions, thoughts, and dialogue in her own paragraph, the structure of the overall dialogue is easier to follow. This way, there is very little indication that the author is intruding.

As far as explaining Parishes and such, the most important thing is not to invade the flow of the words or your character's voice. Insert a bit of explanatory info from time to time, but keep it short and to the point, and in your character's voice. Use dialogue if at all possible. ('Course, you can't abuse the dialogue either.)

I would love to hear what others have to say about this too -- don't think I'm speaking here as the "all-knowing one." Hah!! I'm still learning this game too. : )

BTW, Dayle, I sorta got waylaid by a project over Christmas, but I'll get your ms. back to you soon.

Nicole said...

I think the explanation for Parishes should be inferred. People aren't stupid. They understand context--the story takes place in Houma (sp.?), La., and everything else that's particular to that area of the country needn't be explained either.

Seems like a simple " . . . in such and such Parish (or county to other folks) . . ." would be sufficient. Common sense?

And, yes, I'm a fan of italics for multiple uses, and, yes, definitely in this case.

Kay said...

I don't like the intrusion in the example. If we don't know who the character is by now, then why bring him up?

As far as explaining what Parishes are. Don't. Of course, you have to do what you need to in order to be published. But it really turns me off when authors do that. Enough sometimes to stop reading.
Use a glossary or something in the back if you need to. That I don't mind. But I don't like when the characters are stating the obvious to one another for my benefit. Drives me nuts.

Now, if it's quantum physics or something, I might need some help. But Parishes? Doesn't everyone know about that after all the Katrina news anyway?

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Great comments everybody. Thanks. I'm a little less confused.

Todd said...

I know I'm a little late getting to this, but I feel strongly about this one.

I agree with Kay and Nicole. I HATE it when a writer dumbs down his work to make sure that everybody gets it. I LOVE it when things are subtle and inferred - it makes me, as a reader, feel good about myself that I get it. The writing seems smarter and crisper without all of the "soap opera"* type of set up or dialog.

* "Marge I know you had trouble adjusting after the earthquake damaged your house and your second oldest daughter, Louise, was forced to have an abortion by her ex boyfriend, Max, who was out on parole for stealing the Governor's golf clubs, but try to understand my situation. It hasn't been easy for me since ... blah blah blah ..."