Expressing your thoughts in original language is quite challenging. Consider what you say and how much of what you say consists of references and descriptions not your own. We often express ourselves through not only cliches but through catch phrases brought to us courtesy of television, advertising, memes, films and internet short hand.
Consider how we incorporate LOL, hashtags, smiley faces into our actual conversation. “Gee Greg #youlookgreat.”
“Thanks Cindy, #hopetogetsometonight, you look lovely too.”
My mother is fond of quoting a saying she learned in Greece. Is problem.
We have shared cultural references that not only make communication smoother, but also quickly establishes our cultural credentials. A reference to past artists, shows, events, history can quickly establish camaraderie as well as establish demographic and socioeconomic differences.
Of course we speak in shorthand to our family and friends. We make quick sentences with most of the adjectives and verbs stripped out because our audience already knows the story, they already know the punch line, so all we need to do is reference it. Great for a quick family dinner, not so great for the other guests at the table.
Are we doomed to just repeat and recycle phrases in all our communication?
Can we really wake up one morning and declare – “Today I will have only original thoughts and more to the point, I will express my original thoughts in entirely original sentences made from words already scattered around my brain.” The next thought is a ad jingle, a tag line from a film and the Meme title from a kitten video.
In everyday/social media exchanges, referencing Grumpy Cat isn’t much of an offense.
However – in writing, in a book, it may well be.
Now that you are aware of the pit falls of conversation based solely on catch phrases and trending hashtags, think of how all those ideas and passing memes would look on the cold hard pages of a real book? They won’t age well.
When you write up your first novel draft, just use whatever language place holder necessary to get the plot moving, get the character described.
In the second draft, start editing, begin to explain. Take a look at your own references and consider how your character would really talk. Figure out what the character’s world and social references would be and tailor the language to fit. For example:
- Characters moving around a fantasy world would not reference American television shows.
- Characters trudging through a historical romance would not check their watches.
- 20th century based plots are especially tricky – look up the technology so you don’t end up with a character checking Google years before it was invented.
An anachronism, the out of place comment or idea, jars the reader out of your carefully constructed fictional world and makes them conscious that they are READING not just living in your world – and that’s bad.
We are products of our culture, and culture informs our work – can’t escape it. But we can pay attention to our world and work to re-frame it with original observations and original language. This is difficult to do when we need to place all our lovely posts into searchable formats, bowing to the Great Google, we are required to categorize not only our work, but our every thought. If we can’t hashtag it, is it worth thinking or saying?
Yes, yes it is.
Maybe we need to start up #original so we can write whatever we want or #Unsearchable me.