The Horror of Dialect

In a creative writing class I had several years ago, the teacher cautioned against writing in dialect.  The irony was that at the same time I was taking an Advanced Placement English class that assigned several books written in that particular style. Throughout high school and subsequently college I have periodically read books written in dialect, and I can see why it isn’t common place anymore.

“There Eyes Were Watching God” is often hailed as a classic, and assigned in classrooms all across the country.  I struggled to get through it, I could barely make out what the characters were saying.  I love reading, obviously since I’m a writer, but reading books written entirely or mostly in dialect is an insurmountable challenge for me.  I can figure it out, but my brain wants to fix the words which means it makes reading slow.

Authors are called to “show nor tell” in their stories, and writing in dialect is one way to accomplish that.  To me, though this shows the pitfalls of relying too heavily on showing and not implementing it wisely.  Sometimes, writing short bursts of dialogue, such as a few lines, might be a creative way to show a character’s accent.  Writing an entire book that way is clunky.  That isn’t me saying I claim to be a better writer than these classical authors, but I share this perspective to let others know that if they feel the same, they aren’t alone.  If you are like me, then dialect can be not only clunky, but distracting from the overall plot.  Thank goodness it is a product of the past.

Emotions or Rationality?

In our era of skepticism, cold, unadulterated rationality is often valued.  Science has lifted the curtain on certain superstitions and wives’ tales.  Most people in the modern western world strive to be rational, and scientific.  We don’t want to be like our ancestors that believed diseases were cause by curses.  Most of the time we try to bring that rationality into our everyday lives, particularly our relationships.  But just how rational are we as a species?  Everyone knows that humans are biased, yet there is more to it than that.  I believe people are emotional first and rational second.

Whether we realized it or not, we are emotionally invested into the world around us.  I theorize that our emotional connections to things run far deeper than any of us realize.  Emotions are what drive us, what connects us to our beliefs, I wager far more than any evidence or rationality.  Emotions are not bad things and how they intertwine with our beliefs can be beneficial, for example it can drive us to learn why we believe what we believe.  Rationality too can intermingle with emotion and help us see whether we believe something simply because we want to or if there is evidence to support it.

Emotion, dare I say, contributes to our openness and willingness to accept rational thinking and beliefs.  If we have a strong emotional attachment to the truth, we I’ll search for it ourselves, despite what common consensus may say.  Therefore, being emotional beings isn’t always a bad thing, but I feel it is something we must be aware of.

Honesty Pt. 2

 

Previously I wrote how I feel that people often do not want the level of honesty they ask for.  Often our friends and family claim they want absolute honesty from us, but if we give it, despite being gentle, it backfires.  I recognize this isn’t always the case, but it is something that appears to happen quite frequently.  For us writers, feedback is essential to our business.  We need to know if our stories and characters are relatable to our audience.  Honesty of people also plays a role in characterization.  Characters are believable based on their interactions with each other and the world around them in the story.

It is difficult when you spend months or years crafting a tale and making it available to the public.  Will readers enjoy it?  Will your audience connect to the characters as well as you have?  Just as we ask for honesty in our relationships, us writers should not only ask for, but accept honest feedback when it comes.  When we put so much of ourselves into a book, we must fight our urge to get defensive when someone doesn’t react the way we would like.  A book an author has written is like his child, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss any criticism.

Sometimes though readers simply miss the point or bring their own presuppositions to your novel and that taints their experience.  Sometimes there are things us authors can do to remedy that, but usually not.  For my first short story I got feedback that it needed more to the story, but that was at a time when both sequels were published and “more” was already available.  Some of my feedback, especially with the first book, was a little disappointing but incredibly valuable.  Everyone will form an opinion on your works, that is inevitable, and like all opinions, discernment must be utilized.

In order for authors to create well-rounded characters they must be familiar with real people and themselves.  Honesty, and how people react to it is a key component to crafting characters.  How well will the cast within the story respond to honesty?  Do some prefer lies?  No?  Why not?  There are many people in the real world that do.  These are things that we must ponder.  Not only though how a character responds to honesty, but why do they react in a certain way?  This is where my observations on honesty in the last post ties together with my writing.  I hope that as I continue to learn about others and myself I am able to better hone my writing skills.

Pondering Morality

This is a sensitive subject for many people.  Differences in perspectives on morality cause division, some minor, and some large.  At the heart of these perspectives is one question: is morality relative or absolute?  This is a topic that affects everything, including my works of fiction.  There are some who believe the same as I do about Jesus, but feel enjoying Fantasy is immoral.  Are they correct?  Is there even a right answer to these questions?

An entire book series could be written discussing in depth why there is morality, what morality is, and if there is an absolute basis for said morality.  Here I simply want to address the question, is morality absolute or not?  In short, my answer is yes.  Morality, like many realities are more nuanced than merely yes or no.  While the idea of moral relativism and absolutism appear incompatible, I argue it depends on the approach one takes.  An absolutist version of either end up with absurd logical conclusions.  Absolute moral relativism would mean that morality is determined by the individual and society.  However, when we study history we agree that the actions of the Nazi’s and Stalin’s Red Army were unquestionably evil.  I am familiar with the argument that there is no true right or wrong, just what we make of it, but I don’t think many truly apply that belief.  Sure, there are moral relativist apologists from the common Facebook user all the way up to professional philosophers.  No rational person would agree that just because it was culturally appropriate to commit mass murder in Nazi occupied territories means it is okay.  In the 21st century few would argue that slavery is evil and a terrible thing that happened not only throughout history, but has remained in various forms throughout the world.  Sometimes slavery has been used as an example of this philosophical position’s truth.  It is true centuries ago slavery was more accepted than it is today, the issue once again was that those that were enslaved were thought of as not entirely human. Ultimately, I find it difficult to get around the conclusion that moral relativism will lead to individuals doing what they please, while not pleasing anyone.  Much more could be written on moral relativism, and within that think tank there is diversity.

On the other side of the spectrum there is absolute morality.  This essentially states that there is a moral code that is universally true for every human being.  I believe this is a little closer to the truth than moral relativism.  Those who disagree with this point of view will mention the differences throughout history in society’s values and morality.  However, there are more similarities across cultures then one might realize.  A common example would be that murder has not been freely allowed in cultures.  Now of course there are cases of cannibalism, genocide, and murder of every kind, but the difference is the victims were not considered people by their oppressors.  Even in Nazi Germany murderers were punished.  Those who adhere to this moral philosophy may cite holy religious texts or scriptures.  What absolute morality fails to take into account by itself is the different sensitives of other people’s consciences.  This looks like tastes in music, books, television, basically any consumable media.  Where some may be deeply disturbed by a film and may deem it to be immoral, others may gain something from it.  Another difference may come in food and drink, where one may see eating meat as wrong, another may see supporting agriculture as wrong.

In the above cases, I feel it is down to the individual to do what is best for them, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t overarching moral truths that apply to everyone.  Murder is wrong, but self-defense is typically seen as fair and at minimum a less punishable act.  Within certain cultures people have been deemed less-than-human but murder remains illegal.  Some believe enjoying media with magic in it is wrong, while others do not.  This is an example of where morality is somewhat relative, while there are things should all agree on are wrong like murder, thievery, and slavery.