Bilingual Characters – 4 Common Mistakes

I’m fluently multilingual (English, Spanish, and Catalan). Even though I read almost exclusively in English, I’m a big fan of seeing other languages incorporated into a story through dialog and cultural immersion.

However, it’s frustrating to see foreign languages get butchered by native-English writers. So…I guess I’ll offer a few tips? Just a few, very broad brush strokes, at least. Definitely not trying to be pretentious. But I this is one of the few areas where I feel I have some small say in the matter.

I’ll be using Spanish to give made-up examples, since it’s one of my languages of fluency as well as a frequent victim of misuse. 


Try not to…

#1. Rely on stereotypical catch-phrases

“Well, amigos. It’s time for my siesta. Buenas noches!”

I don’t mean to be harsh, but this is lazy writing. Your seventh-grade Spanish class notes aren’t enough. 

#2. Insert translated phrases/vocab at random

“Say, that party at Jacob’s was muy divertido! Such a huge casa!”

Unless you’re writing Dora the Explorer fan-fiction, don’t. Bilinguals don’t talk like this. If we don’t know a certain word or phrase in our second language, we use a synonym. Or we find another way to say what we want to say, even if it means making mistakes. OR we just gesture wildly and say “the thing” until someone understands us.

Mixing languages is fine. Multilinguals do it all the time when we speak. But when we mix languages, we do so chaotically and messily. Not this neat, organized, one-word-per-sentence method of substitution.

#3. Use Google translate

Google translate (usually) works fine for single words or short phrases, though even then you can get some funky results. But for anything longer, don’t even bother. Besides, Google translate gives you a stale version of your text. Spoken language rarely mimics such results.

#4. Comment/highlight how difficult English is for the character

“Today I have to go to…how do you say? English is not my language. Oh, yes. The doctor!”

This comes across as really condescending. And again, we don’t talk like this.


Instead, try to…

#1. Be willing to learn

Invest the time and energy it takes to understand how bilinguals think and speak in their second language. What’s their level? How long have they been learning/speaking it? If they struggle with vocabulary/grammar/expression, how are they most likely to compensate?

If you have bilingual friends, ask them questions. Second-language speech is complex, and it rarely fits the mold your Spanish/French/German 101 textbook taught you.

#2. Treat foreign language dialog the same way you’d treat English dialog

When I speak Spanish or Catalan, it’s imperfect. It’s messy and full of idioms, incomplete thoughts, fragments, subtext, implications, etc, just like when I speak English. The same is true for anyone who speaks any language.

Yes, that probably makes it frustratingly hard to write foreign dialog (or mixed dialog), because it means you have to understand the language well enough to be able to break its formal rules naturally. 

But a lack of effort almost inevitably leads to The Things You Should Not Do, as laid out above.

#4. Understand cultural/regional influences

When your bilingual character DOES fall back on their native language, remember that language is heavily influenced by region, culture, social upbringing, etc.

For example, the Spanish I speak here in Barcelona differs (mildly) from the Spanish they speak in Madrid because of the strong Catalan (regional language) influence in Barcelona. Furthermore, there are vast differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in, for example, Chile.

Idioms, expressions, forms, and even basic vocabulary can all depend on where your character is from in a very specific sense of the word. 

And maybe Spanish is one of the more extreme examples, since it’s such a widespread language, but the principle still applies to bilingual characters of any native language.


Here’s an image I found on Pinterest that captures the essence of what I’m getting at. I took the liberty to black out some unsavory language, but honestly, these snippets are about as accurate as it gets.

bilingual


To sum things up, bilingual characters go through thought and speech processes far more complex than many writers realize. If you’re not fluently bilingual, get help from someone who is. We don’t mind imparting our knowledge! If you put in the time and effort, your readers will enjoy the authenticity of your diverse dialog.

It’s worth it for us and for you!

 

My Dream Cast for The Broken City of Crows

I don’t usually post blog content during the summer, but today I’m making an exception! I thought it’d be fun to put together a dream cast for my serialized Wattpad novel, The Broken City of Crows, a medieval fantasy centered around escaped slaves Amos, Emery, and Saremis as they struggle to survive. (I post a new chapter every five days, and you can get caught up right here.)

wattpad cover - dark 500x800

Please note that some of the following characters have not been introduced in the story at the time of writing this blog post. So if you see a name you don’t recognize…you’ll have to wait and meet them!

Obviously, these are not perfect matches. Nor do I want to force readers to imagine my characters a certain way (that’s why I don’t do detailed descriptions in my chapters!). This is more like “given today’s selection of actors, who would be the best fit?” Also, my choices are based on physical appearance and personality ‘vibes’ only. I know next to nothing about most of these actors beyond that.

Let’s begin!

Asa Butterfield as Amos

asa butterfield

“I’m not as brave or as strong as you, but I know what I stand to lose. I’ll protect them. I promise.”


Kristin Kreuk as Saremis

kristin kreuk

“I learned that no matter how hard my life was, there was always something to find joy in. I don’t hate the world anymore.”


Tom Holland as Emery

tom holland

“Anytime rich people in Rausten did me wrong, I’d slip a spider down their collars. Have you ever seen a Rausten spider?”


Kristofer Hivju as Brand Barrylow

kristofer hivju

“We’re dealing with the low tiers of the market here. If you want to rob people blind, I suggest you take your wares farther south—Galaratheas, maybe.”


Allison Mack as Denna

Allison-Mack

“I may be a bit of a thief and a bit of a liar, but when I shake hands, the deed is as good as done.”


Caitriona Balfe as Avora

caitriona balfe

“I would have given my life for my city, once upon a time.”


Gerard Butler as Gwinn

gerard butler

“Don’t meddle with the forest, trader. Don’t coax the mountains out of slumber.”


Kristanna Loken as Ember

kristanna loken

N/A


Damián Alcázar as Glavis

damian alcazar

“The Untamable Mountains are like the Queen of Braesting–rich in beauty, but deadly dangerous if disrespected.”


Michiel Huisman as Darius Gyles

michiel-huisman.jpg

“Not so brash this time, are you? You’re hiding in the rubble, wetting yourselves for fear you might be next.”


Craig Horner as Tarks

craig horner.jpg

“A loyal man fights with his captain.”


Oona Chaplin as Taralin

oona chaplin

“It’s a game for men with too much blood in their veins and for women without enough. I’m blessed to be neither.”


Liam Neeson as Lord Durn

liam neeson

“I am the sharpened axe, and they will all bare their necks beneath me.”


Jeremy Irons as Lord Clamant

jeremy irons

“Silence the priests, and their deity becomes a myth to be forgotten until the time is right.”


Imogen Poots as Scarlet Clamant

imogen poots

“The only way you’ll catch my eye is if you outduel me. That, unfortunately, is something you can’t do.”


Willa Holland as Lunah Clamant

willa holland

“Aldazar Baerish revels in bloodshed, but he also brought me chocolate, so why shouldn’t I marry him?”


Will Poulter as Pawk

will poulter

“This is my tribe. These are my laws. If you can’t contribute, you can’t stay.”


Inma Cuesta as Aru

inma cuesta.jpg

“They meant to kill me; now I’m their queen.”


More readers are discovering The Broken City of Crows on a daily basis. If you’re already a reader, let me know what you think of these mock castings! And if you haven’t yet given it a try, you’re more than welcome over on Wattpad. I’d love to see you there!

P.S. Not all of these characters make it. Just felt that I should point that out ahead of time. You’ve been warned.

In the meantime, have a great day!

 

 

5 Writing/Reading Goals for June 2017

#1 Write 1000 words a day

I haven’t been very disciplined these last few months when it comes to daily writing. I’ve been doing a good amount of editing and writing new content whenever the need arose, but in June I want to set a daily goal of 1000 words. Not an astronomical amount, but something easily achievable.

My works-in-progress will benefit, as will my creativity flow.

#2 Make a plan for Where the Woods Grow in Flames

…Which will boil down to two factors: a.) recalibrate my outline and incorporate some structure changes, and b.) decide if to self-publish the sequel later this year OR take the project to Wattpad.

#3 Finish reading all the books I’ve started

May was a month of starting books and not finishing them. Not because I wasn’t enjoying them, but because I had a lot on my plate (and plenty of distracting hobbies as well). This month I’m (finally) going to finish The Beast of Talesend (Kyle R. Shultz), Aftermath: Life Debt (Chuck Wendig), and Lords of the Sith (Paul Kemp).

I’m also super excited to get my hands on the new Darth Vader comic coming out this month.

#4 Post four more solid chapters of The Broken City of Crows

As many of you know, I upload a new chapter of The Broken City of Crows to Wattpad every Friday. June will be my first full month of uploads, so I’m looking forward to getting four exciting chapters going. I’m hesitant to set any numerical goals in terms of reads or votes, so I’m just going to enjoy the process and make June’s chapters as good as I can.

#5 Create digital paintings for Gwinn and Ember

Speaking of tBCoC, after sharing my digital painting of Avora last week, a lot of readers asked whether I’d be doing more characters and if so, if Gwinn and/or Ember were on the to-do list. The answer to both those questions is yes. I’ve already started thumbnailing a sketch of Gwinn, and I hope to have completed paintings of him and Ember by the end of the month. Perhaps by the end of the summer, I’ll have painted the whole Red Vanguard. You never know!


What are some of your goals and plans for June? Let me know, and go get ’em! In the meantime, have a great day.

30 Questions & Answers About My W.I.P.

Recently I was tagged to do a #WIPjoy blog post. For those who don’t know #WIPjoy (as far as I know, since I’m new myself) is a Twitter tag wherein writers share insights and behind-the-scenes info about their works-in-progress via daily questions and answers. I’d rather not spend a whole month answering those questions on Twitter, but I thought doing a blog post would be fun, so here we are!

Thanks for the tag, @ateawithtumnus and @socalscribbler! Go check out their blogs for more fun writing content.

#1 Introduce your WIP…

My w.i.p. these months is a fantasy/adventure novel titled Where the Woods Grow in Flames, a sequel to my December 2016 release Where the Woods Grow Wild.

#2 Why does your protagonist pull at your heartstrings?

Martin’s a simple guy trying to do simple things, but they don’t stay simple for long, and it’s his struggle to lead his friends through difficulties and manage more…personal aspects of his life that establishes that connection for me.

#3 How do you get to know your characters?

By writing. That’s how they tell me who they really are in their own time and in their own way. You can’t force it.

#4 Share a line about your premise!

I think this exchange between Martin and Mayor Clarenbald sums up the premise quite nicely:

“More will come, you know, and we have to be ready.”

“Ready? Ready. Yes, ready. We should be. I can only do so much, though. People say I’m a reasonable mayor, and I tend to agree, but I don’t know what to do when monsters like these roam my streets. It’s not natural, and I only deal with things that are perfectly natural, like festivals and luncheons and petty squabbles among neighbors.”

#5 How easy is this WIP to write?

It’s a sequel, so most of the characters are already established. That makes the creation process simpler. However, it’s been a bumpy ride as far as the plot. A lot of hard things happen, and I want to maintain a balance of positive/negative. It’s a challenge.

#6 Which character is hardest to write?

Illo. Fans of Where the Woods Grow Wild really liked her, but in the sequel…let’s just say she goes through a lot. She’s definitely getting a lot of character development.

#7 Tell us about you and your work!

I write (generally) light-hearted fantasy stories, focused more on simple adventures than on epic wars or stuff like that. I’m snarky and sarcastic, both in writing and in person. In December 2016 I released Where the Woods Grow Wild, which has been my favorite novel project so far!

#8 Who is your protag’s best friend?

Martin’s best friend is Elodie Tuck, the mayor’s mischievous courier and co-protagonist in the book.

#9 How did the main characters meet?

Martin and Elodie have known each other since they were born, having lived all their lives in the small town of Bardun Village. Their friendship started when a shy nine-year-old Martin semi-successfully delivered a fistful of flowers to Elodie’s house.

#10 Anyone suffering from a broken heart?

Not yet.

#11 Share a line about love or hatred…

“[He} may have put on some weight, and he may have lost his memory, but if I’ve learned anything about him today it’s that he still loves you, and he can still be brave if it’s for you.”

#12 What was your protagonist’s past like?

Rather dull, to be honest. Martin spent his whole life in Bardun Village, and that’s not exactly the most exciting place to live. His mother left him to find work in the neighboring town and has yet to return. It’s a good thing he has Elodie to keep him on his toes.

#13 What’s a message about relationships in your book?

Relationships can be (and are meant to be) pure and based on mutual edification. Physical attraction is not the basis for a relationship. It should never be a driving factor.

#14 Which characters get along worst?

Probably Illo and Podgin. They’re friends, but they have a terribly cranky and sarcastic way of going about it.

#15 At its best, my WIP’s dialogue is…

Witty and snarky while still driving the characters towards deeper connections.

#16 I love how I describe things when…

The description flows along with the action. I prefer not to stop and describe objects/people. I want my description to be subtle, almost invisible, while still painting a vivid and palpable picture.

#17 I love how I depict characters because…

They’re different from each other, and that makes for a lot of entertaining interaction. They all developed naturally, some more willingly than others, but I really feel like I’m working with real people.

#18 Share an example of your best prose!

I mean, it’s a first draft still, so I’d hardly call this ‘best prose’, but it’s a short passage I had some fun with…

Later that night, as the moon framed the clock tower bells, the Cabbage Cart Inn received an unexpected visitor. He crept along the path from the main road and reached for the brass knob on the front door, only to find the place locked. Not to be deterred, he snuck around to the back and fiddled with the rickety door there. Bolted as well.

He explored the whole perimeter of the building, making sure to stay well away from the pig pen, before finding a window he could pry open. Sneakily, cleverly, he stole up onto the sill and slipped through the crack without making a sound.

Then he tripped on his own feet, fell, and landed in a shallow pan with a metallic thump.

“Oh dear.”

The pan, having been placed at the top of a precarious stack of its kin, slid from its position with its newly acquired passenger. The ensuing avalanche of pans, pots, and cooking utensils created such a clanging commotion that Bramble huddled on the floor in a trembling mass until the last bouncing spoon came to rest.

“Oh dear.” He grabbed his floppy ears and yanked hard. “Mustn’t make a peep.”

He waited, small and invisible in the kitchen’s shadows, his blinking eyes the only evidence he was even there. No footsteps ran his way, and no one pointed and yelled at him, so he scooted to his feet and made for the door. His button nose prodded the air, and his face puckered.

“Mustn’t breathe the stinky-stench. Mustn’t turn into an onion!”

#19 I love my world/setting because…

The contrast between a very simple village and a very wild forest makes for some fun plot-play. The village forces me to focus on a smidge of reality, while the forest allows my imagination to go ham.

#20 The relationship I root most for is…

Martin and Elodie, because I love them both to death and because the alternative is Podgin and his truffles.

#21 I’m most impatient to hear reader reactions to…

Some of the plot twists/reveals I’ve got in store. It’s a sequel, so a lot of the groundwork is already laid for some pretty special moments. (What, you thought I’d tell you something specific?)


From the protagonist’s (Martin’s) point of view…

#22 Describe yourself in five words:

Clumsily determined. Traditional. Uhm…attached?

#23 One thing you’d change in your past?

Having my hand back wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But I’ve learned to live without it.

#24 Favorite ways to relax?

Anything away from the Cabbage Cart. Probably with Elodie. Walks through the clover fields or trading secrets in the apple orchard.

#25 A line you were proud to say:

I know the one, but I haven’t said it yet. I still have to rehearse a few hundred more times in my head before it’ll come out half-adequately.

#26 Tell us about where you live:

I live in a small, bare room over the Cabbage Cart kitchens. It’s not so bad once the evening cools off and the onion fumes roll out the window.

#27 Do you sympathize with (or relate to) the antagonist?

On a good day, I pity him. Don’t get me wrong, I wish he’d never interfered with our lives, but I think, way down, that I understand him. Just a little bit.

#28 What are you self-conscious about?

Ehem. My missing hand. My clumsy way of doing tasks that others don’t think twice about.


Back to the author (a.k.a. me)…

#29 How long do you expect to be working on this WIP?

A few more months, at least.

#30 What do you hope touches readers the most in the story?

The end. I’ll be wrapping up all loose ends, and I think a lot of the story lines will have a surprisingly touching conclusion. We’ll see.

The Writer’s Life According to Star Wars

I’m back from Christmas vacation and a blogging hiatus. It seems to have been a Star Wars themed break as well, given Rogue One and a number of re-watches at my place. Therefore, I decided to kick off the 2017 blogging year with a Star Wars themed post. Here we see the writer’s life as told by Star Wars gifs…


1
When a new story idea wakes you up.
2
When you solve a plot hole in the middle of, well, some random activity…
3
When MS Word starts underlining all your made-up words.
4
When you find a typo in your proof copy.
5
When you try writing without caffeine…
6
The aftermath of a character death.
7
When someone tells you how hard it is to make a living as a writer.
8
When you realize how hard it is to make a living as a writer.
9
When you find out your friend is reading Twilight.
10
When your villain starts to grow on you.

Have a great day everyone, and may the Force be with you!

Final Cover and Release Date for Where the Woods Grow Wild!

The blog’s been pretty quiet these past two weeks or so, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working non-stop behind the scenes (hint: I have). And, as a result of said productivity, I have several bits of exciting news to share! Remember that series we did a while back, in which you got a glimpse of the synopsis, characters, and story-world of Where the Woods Grow Wild? Well, now I’ve got more for you. Specifically, I’ve got the finalized cover design, and…wait for it…a release date!

That’s right, this is happening. I’ve just about finished working with the feedback from my beta readers, and that means the end of the journey is just around the bend (fittingly, since I started this project about a year ago).

In the near future, I’ll talk more about release specifics (parties and celebratory snacks and pre-orders and all that fun stuff), but for now, I just want to share the two main biggies. So, without further ado, as they say…here’s the final cover for Where the Woods Grow Wild!

Book1CoverFinished.png

I’m not 100% sure how the image will show up, so here’s the back-cover blurb in case it’s not at a readable size.

A forest looms over Bardun Village. Nobody goes in. Nothing comes out. The secrets in the oaks remain hidden until a mischievous escapade thrusts Martin and Elodie behind the silent trees. Separated and lost in a tangle of fantasy, they discover more than animals roam where the woods grow wild.

Now for the release date. I have yet to sort out details such as pre-orders (there will be plenty of time for that, don’t worry), and we all know how fickle Createspace can be. However, barring any unforeseen nasties, Where the Woods Grow Wild will be available in ebook and paperback forms on Amazon on December 10th, 2016. A month minus one day.

Mark your calendars, friends. We’re almost there. In the meantime, have a great day.

#NaNoWriMo Week 1 – Already Behind Schedule

The first full week of #NaNoWriMo 2016 is drawing to a close. This has been my first experience with NaNoWriMo (referred to hereafter as NaNo because I’m lazy), and I’ve seen a bit of everything.

I’ve seen people faithfully update their word count and stay par. I’ve seen people plow ahead and leave their daily word quota in the dust. I’ve even seen a few cheeky writers claiming to have finished the 50k words already (I mean, I guess it’s possible, but I worry for their health).

And then there’s me. The guy who managed to fall almost 2k words behind schedule in fewer than seven days. Am I super worried? No, because I know I can make up for lost ground in a few days. But it’s been interesting to observe things play out in different ways for different writers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of my first week of NaNo:

The writing

As of this morning (Monday the 7th), I’m sitting at 8705 words, which, as I’ve already stated, is under par. By the end of today, I’ll have crossed the 10k checkpoint, and with a bit of extra work I’ll get back to par at 11,700 words.

Despite being a bit behind, I’m having loads of fun with the story. As many of you know, I’m writing the sequel to Where the Woods Grow Wild, and I’m super excited to get deeper into this project.

The challenges

The challenges I’ve faced during the first week of NaNo have been, primarily, two: finding time to write every day, and finding energy to write every day. There are days when I don’t get home from work until 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., and by that time, I’m pretty worn out. I know everyone’s in the same boat, because life keeps us on our toes, right?

The rewards

I love the NaNo community. You guys on Twitter are fantastic at encouraging and motivating each other, and it’s so awesome to see all these random writers working together towards a common goal. NaNo isn’t a contest. It’s not a race. It’s a collective endeavor, and the writing community truly reflects that. Keep it up!

Reminders and tips (for myself) for week 2

  • Discipline trumps inspiration (duh)
  • Don’t put off writing for the end of the day, if possible
  • Use the NaNo progress chart to stay motivated
  • Don’t worry about other writers’ progress
  • Value the ‘forced’ productivity
  • Drink more coffee

How is NaNoWriMo treating you so far? How much progress have you made? What sort of changes or objectives will you set for week 2? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day.