Friday, June 28, 2013

Writers and Their Typewriters #1

Happy Typewriter Day 2013! 
On July 1, 1874, the American inventor, Christopher L. Sholes brought the first commercial typewriter to the market.

     In honor of this landmark event, I write today's Post in Courier font--a throwback to when Courier was one of the few type styles available on typewriters.
     You need to know I - am - a - collector in addition to being a writer, bibliomaniac, gardener, student pianist, and future bee keeper (more on bees later). With my profile in mind, I share that for the last few years I've been on a mission to find a manual typewriter. I haven't the space to collect many, but owning a few to represent different eras, platens, fonts would do nicely. As if I didn't have enough to occupy my brunette-covered cranium, this mission has become more impassioned as of late, and before the year is out it will either be done with, or will have amplified itself. No. Impossible. I haven't the space, remember.
     Stay tuned to Flying Pages as I pursue this quest, and in the process learn more about the machine that led us to computer keypads and boards.
     Because Google is the wonder that it is, I've found the following to share with you. Sit back, close your eyes, and listen to the wonder of an acclaimed sound maker, Michael Winslow, translating the identified typewriters' clicks, clacks, phishes, and phoses. Below is a post by Macy Halford written for "The New Yorker" online blog.

History of the typewriter 

The Spanish artist Ignacio Uriarte is interested in office environments. He makes drawings with the four main Bic-pen colors (black, blue, red, green); wall art from envelopes; a piece called “A 100-page Word Document” that is a hundred-page Word document. The most astonishing thing he’s made is this twenty-one-minute film starring Michael (Man of 10,000 Sound Effects) Winslow, whom you may remember from the “Police Academy” movies. It takes us through the history of the typewriter in sound. There’s the crank and creak and “return” of early models like the 1898 Pittsburgh Visible; the soft “choosh choosh” of the 1915 Faktotum Mod. 2; the dark mechanical twang of the 1979 IBM Composer 82. It’s actually a thrilling journey, and a sad one. Machines today—they’re so characterless, aren’t they? My soft-touch keyboard hardly makes any noise at all.

Did you know that Corona(1930-40)once came in colors to rival the iMac? Hmmm, Steve Jobs––I wonder if you knew?!     

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dialogue <> Dialect ~ Accent

     How a character speaks can be just as important as what he or she says. It's important to craft dialogue that is consistent with the characters you've created, speaking in a character's voice when you are in that character's POV––an all-inclusive "voice" that takes in speech, thoughts, and descriptions presented by that character.
     One way to give a character a distinct voice is through dialect or accented speech. Dialect is dialogue spoken either a foreign or regional accent.

     A few years ago, my family and I (two adults, one adolescent) drove from S. FL to Buffalo, NY. We were packed to the hilt with Christmas gifts, suitcases filled with clothes for Upstate NY weather, two dogs, and coolers filled with food and drink. It was a crowded but great trip, and we stopped along the way going and returning.
     A rest stop in Beckley, West Virginia, provided a free handout from Register-Herald journalist, John Blankenship, titled "Rich Sayings Popular Among Our Ancestors Are Still In Use."As a writer, I couldn't pass that up. I still have it for the Eudora Welty-style fiction I'll write one day with characters drawn from West Virginia, and using lines like:

  • a-mite = a bit of something
  • askeered = frightened beyond words
  • battree = needed to start a car
  • schoolin, book read = an education
  • daid = not among the living
  • jeat = did you eat
  • Dawg, I sed come heya = calling a dog
  • Meemaw or Mamaw = grandmother
  • floories  = snow flurries
  • spitten snow = a lot of snow falling
     This valuable five-page handout also provided information about the culture and language of southern West Virginia. For example:
  • the dialect of southern WVA is recognizable for its distinct flattened and merged vowel sounds
  • the dialect results from a merging of Scottish, Irish, English (Elizabethan), and German languages
  • the relative isolation of the mountains for roughly 300 years has ensured the quality of speech that is reminiscent of earlier times.

     Writing dialect is a skill to be practiced. It requires listening carefully for the spoken words––use, pronunciation, and sentence structure. It's helpful to pick one or two distinctive characteristics to use. If you don't know anyone with the accent you want to convey, or can't travel to that region of the country, consider renting movies or listening to language audio tapes.
     Reading authors who've successfully created regional dialects helps in this process, and more if the author had a firm grasp on the regionalism you might to portray in your character(s). Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Kathryn Stockett, and Eudora Welty come to mind.
     Distinguishing between characters is more than tag-lined dialogue. It also requires attention to mannerisms and the way people speak, their cadence, word choice, and favorite expressions, including foul language.

     As authors, we need to sufficiently characterize the characters we've created, because readers don't want to figure out what's being said. Salt-and-pepper dialogues go a long way in doing this. For example: a character is from Scotland. The author might use a dialogue tag to point our his accent with a mere "(said) with his slight Scottish brogue." Using a handful of words is all it takes to inform readers about his or her accent. So does the occasional hint by the character's use of expressions
     Consider using common idiomatic expressions like the French Zut alors!, Mais oui, Bien, or Voila in dialogues to refresh readers about the character's nationality. This is the most likely way a French person would speak anyway, and using words like these keeps both writer and reader from stressing out.
     Characters who use English as a second language can be portrayed by dialogue with dropped and/or rearranged words, as in: Excuse. Please to tell how far airport is?" This works wonders when used sparingly.
Below are a few resources listed that could enhance the use of accented dialogues.

Visit  Visual Accent Dialect Archive (VADA) is a video library of English-language accents and dialects from around the globe that serves performers and linguists studying language sound pronunciation.

Multiple Awards
Songcatcher  skillfully uses dialect/accent in this 2000 drama film directed by Maggie Greenwald. It is about a musicologist researching and collecting Appalachian folk music in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is loosely based on the work of Olive Dame Campbell, founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and that of the English folk-song collector, Cecil Sharp, portrayed at the end of the film as Professor Cyrus Whittle. A wonderful sound track is also available. 

Meg Ryan & Kevin Kline

French Kiss star and consummate actor, Kevin Kline, does a convincing accent of a charming Frenchman in this 1995 American romantic comedy co-starring Meg Ryan. It's a fun movie for witnessing accent, hand gestures, and body movement  in the French manner. French Kiss was filmed on location in France, and many characters in the film are English-speaking French people.

I enjoy reading authors who know how to use accent and dialect well in stories. Although I haven't a character with dialect to date, I know what I need to learn to do it successfully and without frustrating myself or my readers. Hopefully, this has helped demystify the use of dialect and accent for your present or future characters.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Blogging Journey

      I write short fiction, essays, and poetry. I've "apprenticed" for a number of years––taking classes, reading, studying, writing, and revising. I become more polished and build more confidence with every passing day. I feel satisfied.
     With desktop and nightstand topped with the latest Writer's Market, Poet's Market, and writers' magazines, I consume all the know-how before sending my work out into the world. It takes time.
     I belong to a writing group that meets twice a month. More time. The buzz is social media, and not just one site but several. I push the buzz away, but the buzz keeps bzzing. Should I go for it? But I'm so green technically. What should I do? Even deliberating means time.
     It took five years of writing-conference sessions on social media and writers' platforms for me to step up to the plate. After attending the Florida Writers Conference last fall, I returned home intent on:
  1. -- injecting new life onto my Facebook content 
  2. -- rejecting Twitter and a website for the time being
  3. -- using Pinterest to reflect my writing/reading interests
  4. -- christened my first blog Flying Pages.  

     My blog learning curve was given an appreciated one-two punch by friend, Maxie Steer. With shoulders bent forward, I began to post twice weekly with an editorial calendar planned in advance. Coupled with new life on Facebook and Pinterest, I had a share of new challenges. I recast my window  for writing, and details pertaining to writing. My time became more finite.
     This week marks my seven-month anniversary into the world of blogging, and I have enjoyed and learned from what I research and write for my blog. I have enjoyed and learned from reading other blogs. Still, I find myself betwixt and between.
     Some blogs I've read have hundreds of followers. Their posts have many and informed comments. I felt a competitive edge. I wanted to know who was following me, what were my stats, was I commenting enough on other blogs, were my posts diverse and succinct? The merry-go-round picked up speed. More time. My creative output began to drift.

     I thought about dissolving the blog to return full time to writing, revising, reading; writing and revising some more, but I realized how much I had learned and how I more fully grasped social-media speak. Had this business become an obligation? For the time and effort I expended, would it self-destruct? No. I would continue.
     I cut my posts to once a week. Although I'm still in a learning curve, I'm back to enjoying the challenges of new techie ground and its advantages.
     I shifted attitude gears, and recognized my blog world had opened wider because I had begun to view and comment on other blogs. I began to follow some, and some of them are following mine. Yes, I'd like to know I've provided an "AHA!" moment on any given day. And yes, I'd like to have more people reading and commenting on my blog posts, but I know people read them––or at least I hope they do––because the stats reflect it.
     I'm finding I'm not alone in my search, nor am I walking new ground carving out better organizational skills. I reconfigured my plan, and found value in having walked the tightrope. Every other week, I select one day to write several blogs in advance to take advantage of automatic scheduling. None of this is cast in concrete, mind you. Perhaps in another six or seven months, I'll write that I varied the above by some measure. But I'll be in the driver's seat, controlling what works best for me social-media wise, and its value to my creative output.

At its best, I've come to enjoy the comrarderie of it. Cyber friendships connected by a writing bond. Nice! Now if you could give me feedback, I'd really smile.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Flying Books

Dear Readers:  

     To be sure that your day, and weekend, begins with goodwill towards paper, the printed word, and bindings that we writers treasure so much, I have attached a wonderful 2011American short animated film as a stand-in for my written Post.

     I ask that you remove all that is not life threatening for the next fifteen minutes, and breathe in the beauty of this film––  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore––that won over a dozen film festivals, and was awarded the Best Animated Short Film at the 84th Academy Awards.  Visit Wikipedia to read on the film/story plot and inspiration.
     An official iPad app (Apple App Store) based on the film is available. A book adaptation is also available.
     Those of you with children, please gather them around, for an indoctrination of the highest order.

P. S. The little girl sitting on the stoop at the end––well, that is me. Smile.

Did you enjoy this delightful reprieve at the end of your work week?