“I am fascinated by language,” Elaine Wilson writes at Off The Shelf. “Whether diagramming sentences, reciting the appropriate participle in my Catholic school days, or delving into the case systems of Latin and Russian, I’ve always been uncommonly excited by the rules and regulations of the written word.
“The books below are just a few of many worthy overtures to language. To anyone who has balked at “their” in place of “there” or wondered about the origins of their mother tongue, these books are for you.”
Mary Norris, a longtime copyeditor at the New Yorker, waxes romantic about proper punctuation and grammar in this humorous memoir.
You don’t have to appreciate declensions and the subjunctive to get caught up in her charming prose. The Washington Post calls it “porn for word nerds.”
If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
I’m not talking about the beauties of language, but at at the Book View Cafe I’ve been discussing the art and beauty of storytelling.
Writing a story, building a world – part 5: WHY
To write a story or build a world, you need answers to some fundamental questions: :i.e.Who, What, Where, When, Why, How
This week we are talking about WHY..
WHY is primarily motivation and that has been discussed to the point of being a cliche which is easy to make fun of. Remember that immortal exchange in ‘Galaxy Quest’:
“You’ve got to figure out what its motivation is, what it wants!”
“It’s a ROCK! It doesn’t want anything!!!”
The basic underlying truth is, though, that things don’t happen in a vacuum and even the most irrational-seeming actions are rooted in reason – even if the reason only SEEMED like a good one at the time, or seems right only to a deranged mind.
People, and therefore characters worth their salt, have a reason for doing things. For the cart of the story to keep moving forward, it needs the horse of motivation to pull it.
And speaking of writing, I stumbled on this today while looking for something else.
Some time back I was asked an intriguing question in a Brazilian interview.
Q: Your book (‘The Secrets of Jin-shei’), has been translated into several languages. What was your reaction when that started to happen?
Alma: Disbelief, actually. And after that, increasingly, more disbelief.
The languages began to pile up, and they included some which absolutely astonished me – Turkish, Lithuanian, Catalan, Hebrew.
It was almost impossible to believe that my characters would be speaking all these varied and different languages many of which I would be lucky to be able to recognize the alphabet they use.
For some of the languages with which I either have at least a passing familiarity (German, Serbo-Croat) or else a familiarity with similar languages of the same linguistic family (Spanish, Italian, Polish, Czech), it’s really rather strange to look at a book and ALMOST understand it completely, but being thrown by some colloquialism or common-usage phrase which doesn’t translate clearly into English and which I can only figure out because I know what I originally wrote.
But it’s been a fabulous journey so far. And I hope to reach many more readers who might be picking up my books in their own native language.
At Bustle, Caitlin White picks:
11 of ‘Sesame Street’s Best Literary Moments
“Whether the PBS show is poking fun at Harry Potter, William Shakespeare, or Cyrano de Bergerac (seriously), its Muppet gang is clever and hilarious — while still paying homage to the book it is satirizing. Word play runs amuck, as your favorite characters get silly re-names for the sketch that will have you doubled over in laughter.”
The totally feminist shoe will not be tied down to Grovero’s foot. You’ll be able to watch this epic literary parody if you can even get past Cookie Monster’s announcement of “William Shoespeare, famous podiatrist.”
THIS ‘n THAT
Quiz: Do You Know These Literary Addresses?
But how about these others?
Living walls have been around for a while, but until now they haven’t been used to grow food.
Alma Alexander My books Email me
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