The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

  • Music:

The difference between lightning and lightning bug

When the astute Mr. Mark Twain said that he was talking about finding le mot juste, in general, about not plying nouns and verbs with modifiers to get meaning across. But as I was thinking about the just-right word today, it was more in the context of character.

Since I'm writing a tight third-person, POV, my POV character must dictate word choice. This goes for narrative as well as dialogue, descriptions and expressions alike.

Right now, I'm writing from the point-of-view of Mirco, a slave. Mirco was born in a mining town in a deserted, barren area. He's never had anything come easy to him; he's never had softness in his life. His sum total of experience is very limited, as is his education. So clichés like "easy as pie" aren't going to mean anything to him. Insults like "bastard" lose their sting when almost everyone around him is a bastard, too. The concepts of damnation and hell don't necessarily apply to his culture.

And it is in the area of insults and curses that I'm having a hard time getting creative from Mirco's POV. I'm using words from my culture and upbringing as placeholders, but it makes me cringe every time I do it. I feel good about his voice overall, so it's particularly frustrating that I can't quite curse like him yet. And not curse as in cuss words, but mild insults, the equivalent of "jerk," frex.

I've thought of what he wants, what he envies, what he hates, and what he knows and tried to use those things to create some meaningful ways of classifying others and his world. Sometimes I like what I come up with; other times, meh, not so much. Googling "archaic insults" took me to a relevant entry on Swordplay and the Shakespearean Insult Generator, and a quick gander at the sites helped me come up with a few on the spot. A friend of mine has a book of expressions that have fallen out of favor over the years that she uses for inspiration; I wonder if it could be the same one that is quoted on the Swordplay site...

What tricks do you use to get away from standard insults and pat ways of describing and making comparisons? 

("Highwayman" is on iTunes as I type this and Willie just sang the perfect "many a maiden lost her baubles to my trade." That's what I'm talking about, Willie; excellent word play.)  
Tags: that thing called writing, witherwilds
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