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Denevius
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I mentioned this in another post, but I'm currently reading "Game of Thrones". I'm on Book 3, and I got to a scene that made me wonder.

When you all read fantasy novels, what language do you think the characters are speaking in?

In "Game of Thrones", sometimes the narrative instructs us when the character is speaking a specific language. Most of the time they're speaking Common Tongue, which is a common device in fantasy and science fiction novels. Then other times they might be speaking something else, like Valyrian, or elven, or dwarven, or orc, or what have you. And then these languages might be broken down further, where they're speaking a specific type of elven, or a specific type of dwarven. And there can be Old Tongue, or New Tongue.

But either way, usually in the book's narrative, a foreign made-up word will show up even though everything else in the narrative, or in the dialog, is supposed to be spoken in a particular language.

I've never thought of it until recently, but if someone were to ask me in a serious manner, "Do you think the Common Tongue is English?", after thinking of it a moment, I would probably say 'No'. Why would the Common Tongue in "The Lord of the Rings" be English? I suppose if you were to try and put LTR in some sort of historical context...well, I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and it says:

quote:
Tolkien wrote many times that Middle-earth is located on our Earth.[1] He described it as an imaginary period in Earth's past, not only in The Lord of the Rings,[2] but also in several letters.[3] He put the end of the Third Age at about 6,000 years before his own time.
So, yeah, not English. 6000 years ago isn't Latin, or Gaelic. And yes, as we all know who've read LTR, the dialog is all in English. It doesn't seem like the reason the dialog is in English requires a lot of mental gymnastics. J.R.R. Tolkein is from England, he spoke English, and so he wrote the novel in English.

So riddle me this. Why is it that it's easy for people to understand that fantasy fiction, which takes in a past fictional time, and scifi, which takes place in a future fictional time, is written in English, and the dialog is in English, but the actual humanoids existing in the novel probably aren't speaking English, particularly as we speak it today (as I'm guessing that everyone in the Star Trek universe aren't speaking the languages we do three hundred or so years in the past).

Yet it's difficult for people to understand that my novel, which takes place in Korea, isn't of characters speaking English?

I swear, I get these comments all the time. Why are your characters speaking English? Why aren't they speaking Korean? Why do your characters speak or think a Korean word sometimes?

This is a brief excerpt from a chapter in my novel:

quote:
“Let’s say I go along with this,” Shi Hyeon said. His sister’s arm tightened around his in excitement, causing him to repeat, “Let’s say I do. What would be the point? What do you think you’re accomplishing?”

The mother and son entered a King’s Mart, a neighborhood grocery store. Min Seo led Shi Hyeon to a bench ringing a tree in an adjacent green space. They sat, and lit cigarettes, the gray smoke curling before their faces.

“F*** the bureaucracy,” she cursed in English. A heavy, wet wind rustled the leaves above them, and Shi Hyeon imagined Natural Police concealed in the shadows of the branches of trees. Watching them, making note of every word.

And the comments I got here were: but weren't they already speaking English?

Again, riddle me this: Why would two Korean characters be speaking to each other in English? Yeah, I know throughout the book, the dialog is almost exclusively in English, except for a few words here and there, but why would Korean characters not specifically talking to Western characters be speaking anything but Korean?

Take any number of books. Salman Rushdie's "Midnight Children", which takes place in India. Junot Diaz's "Drown", which takes place in the Dominican Republic. Murakami's "The Windup Bird", which takes place in Tokyo. Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Windup Girl", set in Thailand. Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner", in Afghanistan. Yann Martel's "Life of Pi, again in India. The list goes on, and I can't help but wonder if when people read these books, do they feel the characters are all speaking English.

This is the first fiction I've ever written that took place outside of America, and the comments to it have been enlightening, to say the least. I put my writing on a lot of critiquing sites because I feel that it's my most valuable resource when it comes to editing the novel. But two comments always make me mentally grind my teeth in frustration.

One has to do with the difficulty to pronounce names, which, to me, is staple in fantasy and scifi fiction. I would love to hear someone pronounce Tolkein's 'The Silmarillion', or Martin's 'Aerys Targaryen'.

And the other is the belief that all of the characters are speaking English.

[ December 14, 2013, 03:09 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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extrinsic
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Your writing voice is an invariant Standard Spoken English of a college level dialect. This plain and ordinary and most common voice of writing dialect comes across to me as the English of composition report writing. Mechanically sound, exacting grammar, highly polished, emotionally neutral, for the most part, your use of language lacks the qualities of Eastern sensibilities and Western expectations of Eastern expression. Mythical, mystical, melodic Eastern voices that readers expect don't read or sound like college Spoken English dialect.

Enhancing your writing voice for what you write creatively might call for developing a flavor of Eastern rhythms, patterns, and sequences; in other words, the diction and syntax of spoken Eastern English second language. Listen with a keen ear to Eastern English second language speakers. The differences between U.S. native dialects and Eastern second language dialects are subtle. Because they are subtle differences, a few choice expressions leavened in, underplayed, will serve to flavor your expression.

Vary individual character voices more than narrator voice. Narrator voice can and should in most circumstances be more standard dialects, but express a taste of mystical, mythical, melodic Eastern expression.

For me, when reading a narrative in English that by all credibility cannot be in English, I presume a translation has been conveniently arranged for me and it's unnecessary to dwell on the translation arrangement. However, when undue emphasis attention is called to the fictive fact of the translation, my willing suspension of disbelief is jeapordized and I fall out of the participation mystique spell. Frequent and challenging to read and comprehend non-English terms jar me out of the reading spell. Natural English-like terms with easy pronuciations that roll off the tongue are seamless. More difficult terms, somewhat, occasional, timely, judicious, are not much less seamless.

Difficult names in fantasy and science fiction is no more a staple anymore than phonetic dialect writing expression is, the so-called "eye dialect," coined by George R. Krapp, that was fashionable during the same literary era but persisted longer in fantastical fiction due to perceptions exotic nouns lent an air of exoticness to settings and their milieus.

The principle on point for both voice and dialect features is one of writing's first, if not foremost, laws: facilitate reading and comprehension ease appeals. This is not so that one's writing is watered down by accessibility ease, nor for accommodating to otherwise subjective reader expectations, nor so that one's expression is readily appealing, but so that the imitated illusion of reality within a narrative is not disrupted unduly by calling attention to the artificiality of the fictional construct.

However, on the other hand, Bertolt Brecht favored judicious alienation effects that keep audiences aware of the invented reality of a narrative. Wayne Booth suggests that the degree of distance between a narrative and an audience is an aesthetic feature. Aesthetic distance, he notes, varies during a narrative, from narrative to narrative, and across the literary opus. A close narrative distance, in itself, for example, may for some subject events, dramatic personas, and settings be disruptive. Too great a narrative distance for the occasion may equally disrupt. An ideal narrative distance, psychic distance, and aesthetic distance is a moving target.

Aesthetic distance is the distance relative to subject matter, the occasion, the audience, and each to the others a narrative finds that suits a scene's development. Too close a narrative distance, for example, usually appealing, can alienate if the subject matter disturbs sensibilities or drags on melodramatically. Too shallow a psychic distance, likewise, can alienate from underrealizing the all essential illusion of reality a narrative strives for. Likewise, an invariant Standard English dialect with numerous, if not exclusively, Eastern proper nouns creates an alienation effect that opens perhaps too wide an aesthetic distance.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Denevius, I would read "she cursed in English" as part of her characterization, and recognize that you are not only saying something about her, but about the fact that she finds an English curse more expressive and relevant than anything she might say in Korean.

As for your critiquers, they're being nit-picky, and nit-picks are only helpful (and deserving of your attention) when they actually help you get your manuscript closer to what you as the writer want it to be.

Ignore all other nit-pickiness, okay?

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MattLeo
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Well, this strikes me as the kind of point someone seizes upon when he's looking for something to say. When critiquing a story, readers often come up with points that wouldn't arise if they were reading for pleasure.

Critique takes a special mindset. You have to keep the imaginative part of your mind open -- the part that immerses you into a story when you read for pleasure. At the same time you have to have to watch that part of the mind at work and figure out why it responds the way it does. That's quite tricky. Looking for something to say about a story usually ruins your perception of the story.

That's why critique exchange systems don't work. It's better to swap critiques informally with writing friends. Look for critics who want to help you with your writing, not to dispense with their obligated number of critiques.

Language improbabilities always bother me, e.g. when a time traveler goes to the past or the future and everyone speaks the same language he does. But by in large readers take language improbabilities in stride.

One of the most miraculous leaps of audience understanding occurs in those old WW2 movies, like BATTLE OF THE BULGE. The Germans will speak among themselves in accented English, and the audience automatically understands that that they're supposed to be speaking in German. But later in the movie they talk with an American using the same accented English, only now the audience understands *without being told* that the German character is speaking English.

If you'd never seen a WW2 movie, and you were editing the script, the realization that the audience would have to make this leap of understanding would stop you cold in your tracks. But somehow it never occurs to you when you actually watch the resulting movie. That's the mysterious power of story.

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wetwilly
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All I can say is I've read several chapters of the book in question (probably half-a-dozen or so), and this issue has never occurred to me. I don't think I've ever even thought about what language they were speaking; I just enjoyed the story.
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Merlion-Emrys
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I feel you on this one. I've experienced a related thing where, I often mention my characters speaking the words of spells and will often describe the sound or "feel" of them, but sometimes I get asked why I don't/told that I should spell them out...which I don't typically do because I don't want to just do gibberish nor do I possess the gifts and skills of Tolkien to create a legitimate new language, so I use other methods.

I agree with KDW that something like having the character specifically curse in English strikes me as a characterization and emphasis element. Like the scene in Kill Bill where O-Ren gives her underlings a speech in English, instead of Japanese to make it clear how serious she is (although in that case it seems like having run across the table and lopped off one of their heads should have sent that message pretty clearly but I digress...)

I also agree with MattLeo. Sounds like critiquers just trying to come up with something to critique.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And since the result of trying to come up with something to critique is often nit-picking, I made the above comment on paying attention to nit-picky feedback.

It's just fine to say that something worked for you if you can't find anything else to say.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The challenge most certainly comes when the writing absolutely DIDN'T work for you. How can you offer something positive and helpful when what you really want to say is "yuck!"?

But that's a subject for a different topic, I think.

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Denevius
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quote:
Enhancing your writing voice for what you write creatively might call for developing a flavor of Eastern rhythms, patterns, and sequences; in other words, the diction and syntax of spoken Eastern English second language. Listen with a keen ear to Eastern English second language speakers.
I actually attempt to do this, but only when a Korean character is speaking English to a Western character. When Koreans speak English, it's what's called Konglish. The wording is awkward, there's phrases that at some point in the past someone taught them in English that the entire country seems to employ in daily speaking. They tend to skip articles, and confuse simple words. Instead of saying 'me', when referring to themselves, many of them will say say, 'my'. Because they're taught, 'my pencil', 'my book', so they think 'my' refers to them self.

So an Eastern way of speaking comes up, but *only* when a Korean person and a Western person are speaking. But so far, the novel only has one main Western character: Nathaniel.

I kind of feel it'd be weird to have Koreans speak their dialog to each other in Konglish. It would be very Tom Sawyerish, and logically, it wouldn't make sense, particularly when there are scenes when a Western person and a Korean person is speaking. Because then you have to ask yourself, "Why do they speak broken English to themselves when they're, technically, speaking Korean? But then they're also speaking broken English to a Western person?"

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Denevius
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quote:
Language improbabilities always bother me, e.g. when a time traveler goes to the past or the future and everyone speaks the same language he does. But by in large readers take language improbabilities in stride.
Did you ever see the last awful remake of "The Time Machine"? The time traveler travels hundreds of thousands of years into the future, and someone there, beyond all probability, speaks the dead language of English.

quote:
When he restarts the time machine to avoid falling debris, he is knocked unconscious and travels to the year 802,701 before waking up and stopping the machine.
By now, the human race has reverted to a primitive lifestyle. Some survivors, called "Eloi", live on the sides of cliffs of what was once Manhattan. Alexander is nursed back to health by a woman named Mara, one of the few Eloi who speak English.

Such an awful movie, and that scene always sticks out in my head.
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extrinsic
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Character voice range can be whatever the occasion calls for. Narrator voice, though, even if largely unmediating and noncommenting, is where a flavor of the orient could be most appealing. I'm talking about mythic, mystic, mellifluous features that subtly distinguish Eastern from Western expression. English owing to its Indo Germanic roots is a guttural language largely articulated in the throat, largely favoring obstruent fricative accentuations. Eastern languages are more sonorant, favoring higher accentuations of less turbulent sounds. Not broken English second language. What poetry this narrator voice is is open to infinite potentials.

If I say that The car stopped when it hit the utility pole. Only "utility" is somewhat sonorant. Not for it's length, but for its unstopped accentual flow. All the other terms have hard stops. Sibilants are an example of an obstruent category. Soft swishes swept smooth circles across sandy shores. Of course, that's a little on the purple prose side, calling perhaps undue attention to it, and a bit of a tongue twister. But it illustrates the poetry of English language obstruents.

Sonorants, on the other hand, are vowels and some consonants and syllable sounds. Word choice will vary but generally words with more vowel sounds and soft syllables like M, N, and L.

Mythic and mystic proportions are more a matter of syntax than diction per se. Many rhetorical figures related to schemes rather than tropes represent those expressions. Synchrisis, for example: comparing and contrasting parallel clauses. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Alliteration and syntax expletive as well. [ETA] And the repetition, substitution, amplification scheme in the whole prologue of Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities.

[ December 15, 2013, 06:25 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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Well, let's agree to separate readily actionable nitpicks from pointless nitpicks.

Here's a readily actionable nitpick: People from Afghanistan don't speak Arabic. They speak Pashto or a dialect of Farsi called Dari. That's a minor point, but getting it wrong is an unnecessary embarrassment. Same for basic astronomical facts, such as Mars having gravity of 1/3 g and an atmospheric pressure 1% of Earth's. These are niggling details but commonly known enough to bother getting right. I offer such nitpicks in my critiques freely.

Some nitpicks can be a little arcane; for example the fantasy authors love back scabbards, but historically such things were very rare, and for good reason. It's almost impossible to draw a sword out of a back scabbard without fumbling. Same for back quivers. If you look at the Bayeux Tapestry, you'll see archers equipped with hip quivers for a strong side draw. Quivers in Egyptian tomb paintings are either integral to a chariot or they're carried the hip, usually on the strong side.

But Robin Hood style back quivers and back scabbards are such a staple of fantasy that when I raise this particular nit, I point out that it probably doesn't matter. While I don't use them myself I wouldn't argue with an author who just can't part with them. I just lump those things in with magic and fireplaces with chimneys, both things that didn't exist in the real medieval world.

There's one kind of nitpick I have absolutely no use for: the factually wrong nitpick. I once had a critic tell me that Chinese people don't practice calligraphy; that it was the *Japanese* who did calligraphy! When I informed him that calligraphy is the most prestigious art form in Chinese civilization, and that Japanese calligraphy is a historical outgrowth of Chinese calligraphy, his response was, "well, *most* people think only Japanese practice calligraphy, so you should take that out."

Hmm. Perhaps we need a pet nitpick thread in "Grist for the Mill".

The Bayeaux Tapestry, by the way, is really worth studying if you do medieval-ish battles. It shows a number of surprising details about the use of the lance, for example.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Well, let's agree to separate readily actionable nitpicks from pointless nitpicks.

Here's a readily actionable nitpick: People from Afghanistan don't speak Arabic. They speak Pashto or a dialect of Farsi called Dari. That's a minor point, but getting it wrong is an unnecessary embarrassment. Same for basic astronomical facts, such as Mars having gravity of 1/3 g and an atmospheric pressure 1% of Earth's. These are niggling details but commonly known enough to bother getting right. I offer such nitpicks in my critiques freely.

I don't consider those to be nitpicks. If it isn't pointless, it isn't really a nitpick. Semantics perhaps but I don't think people consider small but relevant factual things like that to be nitpicks as such.


quote:
I just lump those things in with magic and fireplaces with chimneys, both things that didn't exist in the real medieval world.
At least one of those is debatable. On many levels.
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Reziac
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I also make the "convenient translation" leap while reading... and writing.

But for a story taking place on Earth, written in English, you probably need to establish up front that not only is this Korea, we're speaking Korean by default -- let us know our characters are Korean, not foreigners.

And you might have a character observe early on something like, so-and-so spoke with the accent of someone from up near the Chinese border, or from Xyz village, or whatever is appropriate. Or perhaps have 'em say, "Slow down! I can't understand your damned Chinese-border accent" or however a proper Korean would say it.

Another thing you can do is use dialog rhythms that reflect spoken Korean. Word choice and word order can work wonders -- rather like the movie example above, using accent to cue us what language the German soldiers are speaking among themselves. Little quirks of courtesy that wouldn't be found in English can be used, too.

But frankly, if I'm reading a book set in France, I assume they speak French, unless I'm informed otherwise or the character is not French... precisely the policy you've settled on. So I honestly don't think you have anything to worry about.

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MattLeo
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Reziac -- "Another thing you can do is use dialog rhythms that reflect spoken Korean."

This is an interesting idea, but the extreme counter-example is Pearl Buck, who translated Chinese idioms directly into English, giving her Chinese characters a strange, "exotic" sound. It's just as unrealistic as translating "goodbye" as "God be with you," or "foothills" as "the feet of the mountains." In reality Chinese doesn't sound the last bit flowering in Chinese ears. This may have been just the right thing for her market, though.

Merlion-Emrys -- you believe there *was* magic in the middle ages?

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Merlion-Emrys -- you believe there *was* magic in the middle ages?
While I don't belong to a specific religion, I am not a materialist; I believe sentients continue beyond physical death and that there are things that exist but that are outside of what we currently think of as science, so essentially yes, then and now, depending on how you define it.

Now you're probably going to say something about fantasy magic and fireballs and such but my point is just that the existence of the supernatural is maybe not the best thing to use as an example of something to be dismissed or handwaved in the manner of a known inaccuracy.
In fact, one of the things most likely to to irritate me in fantasy is inconsistency in their magic systems and supernatural underpinnings like Joss Whedon's strange and inconsistent handling of "souls."


Of course, historical things, like no chimney's in the middle ages, or the details of ancient Egyptian society and such, aren't necessarily things to worry about exact precision on either given that, since no one we know of was alive that long ago, much of what we know about distant history comes from potentially at least partially subjective or subject-to-misinterpretation sources.

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Denevius
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quote:
Character voice range can be whatever the occasion calls for. Narrator voice, though, even if largely unmediating and noncommenting, is where a flavor of the orient could be most appealing. I'm talking about mythic, mystic, mellifluous features that subtly distinguish Eastern from Western expression.
I think that it would probably be a recipe for disaster to try and make the narrative voice "sound eastern". Because, in my mind, what I'm really doing is making it sound like a stereotype of how Westerners believe an Eastern person speaks.

We see this all the time in popular media. Yoda is supposed to sound like the Eastern mythic. Mr. Miage from "Karate Kid". S.R. Hadden from "Contact". There's this stereotypical idea of what Asians sound like that probably isn't the best way to go. The idea that they speak in a rhetorical way full of wisdom and understanding. Granted, Extinsic, you're probably right. It probably is why many who've read my novel think everyone is speaking English. I don't say things like, "Into the tall pole with a single light, the car crashed."

But then, neither do Koreans. if I passed an accident on the street and stopped a Korean person to ask what happened, if they spoke English and they know all the words, 'car', 'smashed', 'utility pole', they'll say something like, "The car smashed into a utility pole".

If their English language is lower, they'll point, say, "Car", they'll clap their hands together and say, "boom!", they'll point again and say, "pole".

And I'll be like, "Ah, okay." Because when you're a foreigner, you're always playing a game of charades and fill in the blank with people around you.

Over the years, I've had high school seniors give me personal college essays to read, I've had university students give me term papers, I've had Korean English teachers give me articles for the school paper to read, and I've read blogs in English by Koreans, and really, beyond awkward phrasing and spelling and grammar mistakes, there actually isn't an Eastern tone to it.

As in America, Koreans have their idioms. And where appropriate in the novel, I've tried to apply them, but again, only in dialog. But I guess when you live here, a lot of the mystery of the orient, which is basically misconceptions anyway, goes away.

Does "The Windup Bird Chronicle", or "The WIndup Girl", or "Life of Pi", sound eastern? As I'm not exactly adverse to your suggestion, Extrinsic. I almost feel like my professor in university is asking, "But does your narrative voice *sound* like anything?" But beyond fulfilling a stereotype, I'm not sure a third person narrative sounding eastern is going to come off as anything but condescending.

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Denevius
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quote:
In reality Chinese doesn't sound the last bit flowering in Chinese ears.
Exactly. What I've tried to do instead is capture a general idea of how Koreans speak to each other. Min Seo cursing in English is something that young Koreans do to sound cool. But there are other things. In the novel, when a younger person is speaking to an older person, though it's all in English, I have the younger person speak formal English, the way you'd speak to a boss or a dignitary, and the older person speak more casually in English. This is an attempt to show their different stations.

When they speak to someone of the same age, there's more slang, more contractions, etc.

It's funny, though, because when I try the formal way of speaking, one of the critiques I get is that the dialog is stilted. Which I agree with, but then, I don't want it to be off-putting to a reader.

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extrinsic
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Yoda sounds more like a Yiddish mystic to my ears than an Eastern mystic. His use of hyperbaton, a common feature of Jewish immigrant dialects from Eastern Europe and Russia, stands out more to me than his Zen-like mysticism. One hand clapping, the sound is?

Consider exploring a few East Asian English second language immigrant writers with strong native language remnants though sophisticated English language skills, especially their narrative voices. Not translations. Translations lose their figurative depths. Since these writers write to closely emulate Standard Western dialects, yet have cultural dialect legacies, I think they might suit what I feel a narrative voice for similar audiences might, subtly subtlety.

Literature written by, for, and about East Asians in the West is abundant, so I cannot suggest any in particular. I've read a few, and a few native U.S. writers who spent extended stays immersed in Eastern culture.

Yes, cultural malappropriation stereotyping is problematic. But artful expression need not be malappropriation.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

It's funny, though, because when I try the formal way of speaking, one of the critiques I get is that the dialog is stilted. Which I agree with, but then, I don't want it to be off-putting to a reader.

I've got *exactly* this critique myself when writing about upper middle-class American teenagers in the 1930s. Back then it was common for people, even teenagers to use different formality registers with different people. When talking with their friends, my 1930s teenagers sound just like modern teenagers. When speaking to teachers, parents of friends, and strange adults they become progressively more formal, sounding just a tad like a character in a Jane Austen novel. As they should; they're located nearly half way between the modern era and the Regency Period!

"But teenagers don't sound like that!" Actually they *did*. But not all the time. Back then *never* using formal language would mark you as a social misfit. Today, EVER using the formal register is taken as a sign you are a social misfit, unless you're testifying in court or something like that.

I actually lived through that change. I was taught things like the intricate order of precedence for making introductions (in a nutshell: present the person of lesser status to the person of greater status first), by eight foot tall nuns in billowing black habits and starched white wimples. To this day it always bugs me when some vendor I've never met calls me, and without identifying himself says, "Hey, is Matt there?" But then if I ever got a call from someone under fifty who knows proper telephone etiquette I'd probably be struck speechless.

Anyhow, I think the thing to do about your characters is not count on the reader picking up on significance of the change in the formality register -- not without a hint. So you can introduce Miss Kim's change in formality like this:

quote:
"Good morning, Mr. Lee," she said, adopting the formal mode of address with her father's supervisor...

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Denevius
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quote:
It's better to swap critiques informally with writing friends.
Haha. I don't trust my friends to be honest. And I've lost writers who became friends because there's a bit too much sympathy sometimes required as you grow closer to a person that, I don't feel, benefits craft.

Perhaps it's like a poor person worrying about having too much money if he ever became rich, but I do worry that if one day I'm publishing frequently, those surrounding me reading my fiction in its earliest drafts won't offer their honest assessment. And when something is obviously flawed, they won't be persistent for fear of hurting my feelings.

As I read Book 3 of Game of Thrones, or most novels by prolific authors, or watch movies or television shows that have gone on and on past their prime, I often think to myself, "You know, someone has stopped telling these people when their writing is rubbish". Someone didn't tell George R.R. Martin, "Yeah, this is just kind of stupid. What you just did with this character? Uh, no."

I read a bit of an interview with Martin a year or so ago which touched upon why so many of his central characters died. And he said something like, in times of war, people die.

Which is true. But the same goes for narratives. Sometimes you've written everything of importance you're going to write on a particular story, and there comes a point in time when it just needs to be laid down gently to rest in death. Or hacked to pieces and dumped in a river.

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ForlornShadow
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I don't think its about writing in a certain style at all. I haven't read anything about your stories or your characters except what was put in this post but what I would do is take a good hard look at your characters and their behavior. I wrote a story about three years ago that took place in Japan with Japanese characters. When I was done with it I hated it and couldn't figure out why. Three months later I figured it out. My characters didn't feel Japanese. Why? Because they didn't act Japanese, they behaved and spoke like American's. So now I'm working on the rewrite, very slowly, to make sure the characters are acting like they would if they were in Japan. Maybe that's all your story needs, little hints here and there to remind the reader that your characters are Korean.
Ever read Battle Roayale although the story is translated into English the characters still feel Japanese and intuitively I know they aren't speaking English even though the dialogue is in English.

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