Master of Horror

September 17: Ploughing Along…As Usual

And so September rolls past, heading towards another month, and I’m 6,000 words into a new story…an interesting tale about a man who tries to sell Hell to a churchman in early Australia, and runs into difficulties with the actual owner!

Sometimes, I wish I knew where these plots, characters, and tales emanate from…it seems that as I finish one tale, another pops into my ever-active imagination, and off I go again.

This one features heavy use of direct dialogue, which is one of my favourite forms of descriptive writing. I am fascinated by the different pronunciations and inflections various races place on words and phrases as they speak them.

When I’m caught for a new character, I don’t go out and study another person – how they walk, how they move, what they wear – that all comes from my imagination. Instead, I take notice of how they speak: the different words they use, how they actually say them…the inflections and tones of a Polish man as, for instance, compared, to a Swede. There are almost as many ways of saying a sentence using different accents and regional forms as there are birds in the sky…and a writer can portray much just by concentrating on this aspect of character.

Go to a coffee-shop, or a train station, and just sit there, listening to the people around you…not to the words they are using, but to the way they pronounce them, the way  they use different words as opposed to other races. An American, for instance, will pronounce the name of the spanish province of Castille as ‘Cass-teel,’ where a Castillian will pronounce it as ‘Cahhh-teel,’ almost killing the sibilance so it vanishes.

The most mispronounced word in the English language is the word ‘Just’. Hardly anyone will say it as it is spelled – they will say ‘Jess,’ or ‘Juss,’ or ‘Jist,’ ‘Jest’, while a Scotsman will say ‘Joos’.  And an Italian who has not yet gotten out of his Italian pronunciations will say ‘Joost-a’.

And dialogue is regarded by writers and some editors as just as important as any other part of writing: I once won a prize in a writing competition principally for my use of spoken dialogue.

One of the best exercises you can do in learning pronunciations is to get hold of an old Goon show record, and listen to the different accents and pronunciations of the characters. No two are precisely alike.

Hope I’ve been of some help to you all…

Adrian Scott

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