So my current project takes place in South America…in the beginning. I have a group of characters who speak Spanish. The question here is how do I portray that? Do I write in English and just say it’s in Spanish? Do I write some bits in Spanish and then immediately translate? Or do I go the David Mitchell route from Cloud Atlas and just write certain excerpts in only Spanish and let the readers hope for the best?
I think I’m trying a little bit of everything. Mainly the dialogue is in English; however, I have managed to put in a little phrases here and there (being half-Peruvian, I use what I grew up with). I feel that it makes it a little more real by adding this little dash of flavor. Examples?
I have a character who has a line that goes something like this:
“Oye huevon! Que haces aqui? Why are you not at the church yet?”
I don’t translate it. If you’re familiar enough with Peruvian Spanish, you’ll get the ‘huevon’ bit. If not, it doesn’t effect the story. It is simply a name that one character is calling another in jest. “Que haces aqui?” What are you doing here? I don’t translate that either since but you see what I did there? What are you doing here and Why are you not at the church yet are asking the same questions.
In essence, I added a little dash of culture but what is important is still in English. Don’t get me wrong, I do write some dialogue where it has to be translated. But if you do this, use it sparingly. So far, it is one of the few places in this project where such a practice is used:
“Parca,” the old man whispered. Reaper.
“¿Me puedes ayudar?” Can you help me?
Cesar nodded. “Por supuesto, señor.” Of course, sir.
What other ways of utilizing a foreign language do you use? Granted, not all of us are Tolkien’s here who can develop a complete language for books (although, like Tolkien, I did study linguistics….I just wasn’t a professor). Do any of you try to use your own language when writing?
One of the problems I am finding with this current project is the pacing. Whether it’s the flow of the words or the flow of the plot. Right now I am suffering from the latter which in turn is affecting the former. I wrote the ‘skeleton draft’ in one shot. By ‘skeleton’ I meant it is simply all of the main points I want told. Now I’m going back and beefing bits up; however, it all feels so scattered. You have to find the tools to see your story on a bigger scale. I will briefly write a few things that have helped me with both of these issues.
When it comes to the flow of words I use one simple trick: I take what I have written and read it out loud. You read slower when you verbalize versus reading it in your head. This also helps with when writing dialogue: does it feel natural in your mouth when you say the words? This may not work for everyone, it definitely helps me.
When it comes to the flow in plot I found index cards to be essential. But I will take this one step further. I found an awesome computer program that allows for index cards but these cards are digitally connected. The program is called Scrivener. I found it while checking out author Veronica Roth’s blog. Here’s an image of what I’m working on:
As you can see, I have index cards discussing plot points I’m hitting for a particular “chapter.” But if you see on the left hand side the title of the index cards have been blurred. It’s there that the actual written portion is. I can change the order of these “index cards” and it moves the written portions for me 😀 But this way I am able to see my work as a whole. It’s almost God-like, having this bird’s eye view of the entire story.
I highly recommend Scrivener. They at least give you a thirty day free trial and if you like it you only have to whip up about $40. Here is the link to the site: