Tuesday, June 7, 2016

He/She said

The last time you exclaimed was well after you'd asserted and later still than the awful moment you were discovered exhorting.  Like many other living things, and some inert ones such as iPhones and operating systems, language evolves; English, for example, not only evolved through the Norman Conquest, it also withstood the Great Vowel Shift, never thinking it would at some future time become The Language of Science, not with France and Germany in the game. But look at the way circumstances evolved.

Users of language also evolve, often within a single generation which is about the length of time required by ,the expression "They had a gay time of it" to evolve into a meaning with a stark shift from its earlier intent.

What once were called jargon or buzzwords are in actual practise code words by which members of particular social, artistic, and scholarly groups could speak with greater senses of authenticity and presence in front of those uninitiated, the citizens, the hot polloi.  

Among a group of which you have some familiarity, albeit the familiarity of a youngster who'd managed to observe a ballgame by watching through a hole in the fence or see the circus more by means of lifting the canvas tent flap than through a ticket of admission, the literary world has its conventions, buzzwords, and codes. 

At one course you gave at a Center for Lifelong Learning, affectionately called Adult Ed, you were interrupted by a person, obviously a caretaker from the way she guided and helped find a seat, an elderly charge. During your opening remarks, the elderly charge raised her hand as if to ask a question or challenge some statement you'd made. 

When you called on her, you did so with no awareness of her mental or emotional state.  "Kill your darlings," she said. At least five more times during the class, the signaled her desire to be recognized, was given to do so, then repeated her earlier admonition. "Kill your darlings."

This is an expression of some editorial intent, meaning to remove from your written text anything that sounds as though it had been made to order for a specific situation within a narrative. Hearing it repeated at such apparent purpose, although a purpose invisible to you, a wave of nostalgia ran through you for the exhortation or admonition or, if you will, asseveration to "Show, don't tell."

Within your clan or society or moiety, "Show, don't tell" has the important meaning of demonstrating the story or report rather than explaining it. This is a sentiment you in large measure agree, even though you've encountered some examples of great hilarity and amusement as neophytes attempt to do so when a well-wrought "tell" would have sufficed. You may have been the engine for setting an edited version of this admonition forth through your frequent importuning to "Evoke rather than describe."

These summary observations are urged because of, or rather amicus curiae brief for the evolution related to the attribution for someone having spoken a line of dialogue in a dramatic narrative. One way to spot a beginning writer is to note how he or she copes with this matter. The beginner believes it necessary for characters to do as many things other than said for having spoken.

The sum of all these paragraphs is quite simple: "Said" is invisible. There has never been a better verb for having spoken than said.  If the dialogue intends to show someone exhorting, the line of dialogue would do well to include the word "urge" within the dialogue rather than as a verb. Same thing for warn. "Don't fucking touch that," he warned.  "I beg you to reconsider," he exhorted.

And not to forget that if you end a line of dialogue with a question mark--"Are you coming?"--you don't have to say, he asked.  "Do it," he insisted. "Go on. Do it. Do it."

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