It’s been a while! Life has been crazy and I’ve let my blog got to waste. I feel bad about it, but sometimes life is like that. After complaining to my boyfriend about how much I’ve neglected my blog, he kindly offered to make a blog post for me – kinda a guest spot. Since Dave is brilliant, I thought the idea was fantastic. That said, please enjoy my boyfriend, David Oliver, and his first blog post, Ninja Cups and the Path to a Better World:
Greetings all! I would first like to thank Paula for graciously allowing me to use this space as a guest blogger. This is my first blog post so I was planning on writing something splashy, perhaps revolutionary. I figured it would contain some humor, some drama, perhaps a bit of ageless wisdom and just maybe the Great Key to Literary Success. After due consideration I decided it would be better to simply write about what happens to be on my mind at the moment, which takes us to… Ninja Cups. (I mean, who needs great wisdom when you can have Ninja Cups?)
A few days ago I had a dream in which I was trying to uncover the plans and tactics of a covert organization which recruited a friend of mine. The dream had all the excitement of a good spy thriller, but the plot of the dream was not what got me to thinking. In the dream I first realized that there was more to the actions of the people I was watching by listening to them talk. I found that the people had a habit of talking in strange euphemisms and slang-speak. An example of this was Ninja Cups, which was used to mean “excessive or over the top, but still effective.” The etymology of the word was a story about a ninja taking a walk by a river and realizing he was thirsty. Without a cup he was at a loss until some poor soul happened to pass by the ninja and with a swift ninja kick to the head the ninja retrieved the decapitated head and voila, he had a cup.
This example may be slightly gruesome but I bet many of the readers will remember it, and more still have a greater understanding of the nature of this organization. When writing fantasy or science fiction I have to be careful in my word craft not to include any modern slang, euphemisms or turn of phrases; after all, such linguistic tools are usually specific to this time or that place, and forcing an out-of-place out-of-time expression will drive the reader away from the world they are so painstakingly attempting to create.
This statement poses a problem though; if a writer successfully divests their writing of all the slang, euphemism, turn of phrases and other colorful tools which predominates our language they will find their work made sterile in its formality. The reason is simple; everybody utilizes a veritable cornucopia of those colorful uses of the language countless times every day in all forms of speech. Most people are not even aware of the full range of these tools that they use. For example the term “restroom” is a euphemism derived from other euphemisms which were in turn derived from yet other euphemisms. If a character in a story uses the lavatory, restroom, john or head, that character is going to the same place, but the choice of terms provides the reader with enough contextual diversity to give the reader an understanding of the flavor of the character.
My suggestion, then, is for the writer to be aware of the world they are creating. Some modern terms may be acceptable but it is probably better to assume that they are not. Before a writer first puts pen to paper (or hands to keyboard nowadays,) they should strive to learn their world, learn the political, economic and artistic climate that predominates in their world. Once the writer has achieved a basic understanding of their world, they should set forth to create a small lexicon of slang and phrases which will serve to increase the readers understanding of the world.
The writer needs not use all the full set of phrases developed, just as they may create new phrases as their story progresses, but by being aware of this they can add layers of creativity, understanding and realism to their world. In short, they can make their world a better place. It must also be added, though, that the blind addition of strange phrases will not increase a world’s clarity, rather the writer must make sure that the reader understands the meanings and perhaps history and context of the phrases. Only then will the world be made more real. An example of this is a world I created with a friend some years back. We created a futuristic world of domed cities controlled by corporate “families” where all technology, from cars to doors to lights was connected and controlled by the internet.
In this world we decided to coin the slang term, “waters,” for the internet. From that base we created a massive list of terms and phrases to describe many of the aspects of the lives of the characters, such as “divers” for hackers, “sharks” for high powered attack programs and “puddles” for systems that were cut off from the rest of the internet. In the end we could freely add new slang terms and phrases with minimal exposition. This gave the world a level of complexity and realism that could hold the readers attention and cause them to suspend their own instinctual disbelief.
There are many aspects to the creation of a successful story and a good writer must not only be aware of all these aspects but juggle them as well. It is my hope that while this entry may make the job and the joy of writing a little more difficult for some, it will provide a better story to grace the minds of the readers. Thank you.