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!

 

 

How To Be A Fantasy Character 101

Today we’ll be studying the basics of what it takes to be a full-fledged fantasy fiction character. Note-taking is encouraged.

Step 1: Wear the appropriate attire

In this class, we provide you with a starter kit which includes pre-muddied boots and a cloak carefully hand-torn by our specialists. We also recommend you complete your outfit with your own choice of shirts, pants, and hoods. Our wardrobe selections include Colors Of the Forest, A Hunter’s Garb, and Dusty Road Wanderer.

Step 2: Grow out your hair

Most of our past graduates adapt to the standard shoulder-length hair, which we recommend for its versatility. It’s long enough to catch the breeze while you sit majestically on your wilderness rock of choice, and it’s short enough to whip around just right in situations where dancing, spinning around in surprise, or hand-to-hand combat are required.

Step 3: Make sure you have adequate eye color

You’ll have to purchase your own contact lenses, but our prices are economical so you won’t have to use the last non-specified-currency coins from the pouch on your belt. As with our clothes department, our contact lens counter features an array of color choices. These include, but aren’t limited to, Emerald Green, Pools-of-Water Blue, Rich Mahogany Brown, and As-Black-as-Ebony Black. Each base color also comes with palette variations ranging from Deep to Sparkling.

Step 4: Invest in some recommended accessories

Now that you’ve completed your basic outfit and your rugged-yet-charming and/or graceful-yet-fierce appearances, we can move on to completing your look with some accessories. Should you plan on spending time adventuring outdoors, please consider our selection of flasks, weightless cooking supplies, hand-carved staffs, and lethal daggers. If you prefer to stay in town, however, you may be interested in our stealth-friendly tool belts, lock picks, just-quiet-enough grappling hooks, and lethal daggers. Not into adventuring? No problem! In the next aisle, you’ll find our embroidered handkerchiefs, leather-bound books, this-belonged-to-my-mother necklaces, and lethal daggers.

Step 5: Formulate a dietary plan

Now you look the part! Let’s get to work on your lifestyle changes. I see you’ve brought water and vegetables, but don’t worry, we won’t be needing those. There’s a Local Healer booth set up in the back; talk to any of our soothing female staff members and she’ll set you up with a new nutrition plan based on bread, cheese, mysterious chunky tavern-stew, and plenty of ale and mead. With our dietary plan, dehydration is a thing of the past!

Step 6: Learn the necessary survival skills

We know you want to start questing as soon as possible, so we’ve condensed our survival skill syllabus into a two-day crash course where you’ll learn to wield a sword, shoot a bow, ride a horse, and set rabbit traps from our team of bearded experts. However, if you present us with your certified Chosen One and/or Hero of Destiny I.D., you can take a brief placement test and skip the course altogether.

Step 7: Purchase an animal companion

Of course, all our students want horses, and we’re glad to provide you with a fine spirited stallion, or, alternatively, a stubborn-yet-loveable mare that’s too old to travel fast but fits your budget just right. However, please remember that most horse names have already been registered, and our last graduating student had to settle for Thunder_Stripes20387. We advise you consider our other available companion animals before making a hasty horse decision. We offer battle tigers and tamed wolves for our real gutsy adventurers, or, should you prefer the more cute-and-comical variant, we have injured birds of prey and a randomized forest rodent. Now, what color would you like your horse?

Step 8: Select a surviving family member

Unfortunately, our program doesn’t allow students to graduate so long as all their relatives are alive and well, so we’ll have to ask you to choose up to a maximum of three extended family members to move ahead with. For the sake of convenience, we recommend limiting yourself to siblings, wise and loving grandmothers, and/or shady aunts and uncles. When you’ve made your selection, please sign the Emotional Consequences Waiver form, which you collected at the start of the class.

Step 9: Reserve a room at the tavern/inn of your convenience

When you pass this class you’ll be enrolled in our extended learning abroad program, so make sure you choose a tavern that matches your preferences. This is the second form we gave you, the one on the faded parchment nailed to the door. Slots fill up quickly, so make sure you get your name on there right away so you don’t miss out on the isolated table in the corner, the one with the dim candle. You can still brood and ignore the noisy patrons from other tables, but it’s just not as fulfilling! We want you to have the most mysterious experience possible.

Step 10: Wait for your first quest

To complete the learning abroad program and receive your traditional written-in-the-ancient-language diploma, you’ll need to complete a quest. You’ll find a list of available quests towards the end of your syllabus, but you’ll need to wait for us to send our certified suspicious stranger to your designated location before embarking on the quest. If you head out on your own beforehand, the chances of encountering your assigned quest companions will be slim, and you will likely fail the final exam: our carefully curated sequence of incrementally-dangerous challenges which you cannot complete without courage, friendship, and at least one potential love interest.


We hope you’ve found our class instructional and inspiring. We look forward to seeing each of our students fulfill their destiny.

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Elodie Tuck

I’ve decided to start a new blog post series in which I share fun or significant facts about the characters from Where the Woods Grow Wild, facts which aren’t mentioned or developed much in the book. These facts won’t be spoilers, so no worries there! It’s mostly just for you to get to know the characters ‘behind the scenes’ a bit more. And why not start with my favorite character from the book, the mayor’s Speediest Courier?

(For more info about the story and the characters, this in-blog page is the place to go.)

So, without further ado, here are ten facts you probably didn’t know about Elodie Tuck:

#1 Her parents are alive

Both of Elodie’s parents are presumably alive, though their whereabouts are unknown and irrelevant, as they abandoned Elodie on the doorsteps of a bakery in Aldenturf when she was only a few months old.

#2 She was raised by Mayor Clarenbald

Horatio Clarenbald unofficially adopted Elodie at the persistent request of his wife Marigold several years before he was appointed mayor of Bardun Village. They were visiting Horatio’s brother in Aldenturf (a certain baker), and Marigold threatened to put salt lumps in Horatio’s tea for the rest of his life if he didn’t agree to care for baby Elodie. Marigold became ill and passed away a few years later, and she made Clarenbald promise to continue providing for Elodie for as long as she needed it.

#3 She created the position of town courier for herself

Before she turned sixteen, Bardun Village had never needed an official courier. After her sixteenth birthday, it still didn’t, but Mayor Clarenbald insisted Elodie was well old enough to work for her room and board, and she refused to join his maid-infested staff, so she appointed herself as the Mayor’s courier, and that suited Clarenbald just fine.

#4 She once broke her arm in the apple orchard

She was eight years old the first time she tried to climb one of the trees in the apple orchard, and it didn’t end well. It was then that Horatio Clarenbald decided she ought to learn to read and write. Those first few lessons didn’t end well, either.

#5 She refers to Clarenbald as ‘Mayor Clarenbald’ on his request

While Clarenbald was willing to raise Elodie for as long as was necessary, he and Marigold never had children of their own, and he didn’t feel capable of developing a fatherly bond with Elodie, so he kept their relationship as formal as possible and taught her to always call him by his title.

#6 She tried to teach herself to swim by throwing herself into Clarenbald’s pond

It didn’t work very well. Clarenbald had to throw one of the current maids after her. Subsequently, Clarenbald let the pond dry out and replaced it with a flower garden. Elodie learned to swim in the creek north of town the next year.

#7 Martin Colter was her first real friend

The Colter family came to Bardun Village when Elodie was nine years old. She tried to befriend Martin right away, but it took him a full year to work up the courage to say a word to her, so for a long while she gave up entirely.

#8 Her birthday is on October 14th

When Mayor Clarenbald told her she ought to pick an official birthday (purely for legislative purposes, of course), she chose October the 14th because that was the very next day and she couldn’t wait to celebrate for the first time. In future years she wished she had chosen a warm summer date, but Clarenbald insisted it was too late to change her mind.

#9 She once saved Percy Durbity’s life

Though to be fair, it was her fault he rolled off the table to begin with. She was looking after a one-year-old Percy while the Durbity parents had a garden lunch with Mayor Clarenbald. Percy wouldn’t stop crying, so she put him on the kitchen table while she ran to find a sock or something for him to play with. Long story short, Percy rolled off and Elodie caught him in the nick of time. She never told him about the incident when he grew up because she didn’t want to be pestered with admiration for the rest of her life.

#10 She often dances in her room at night

Because she can, and she doesn’t need any other reason. She kept her shoes on the first time, but a coincidentally-awake, candle-wielding Clarenbald calmly informed her that dancing was for nymphs and nymphs weren’t real, therefore dancing shouldn’t be real either. Elodie decided she wanted to be a nymph, and so she danced with bare feet from then on.


I hope those were interesting facts! I’m definitely going to do more of these in the near future (maybe making it a weekly series?). Drop a comment below to suggest which character I should explore next! Or, if you have any more questions about Elodie, feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer those that I can.

Don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on Twitter to receive your complimentary fuzzy duckling. And as always, have a great day!

 

Top 6 Fictional Couples

 

Happy Walmart You’ve Gone Too Far Valentine’s Day, wordmigos! Just for kicks and giggles, I’ve compiled a list of my six favorite fictional couples in order of favorite-ness. Comment below with some of yours!

Anything goes for my list: books, movies, t.v. shows, and video games are all contenders!

Honorable mentions: Han and Leia, Wall-E and Eve

#6. Shasta (Cor) and Aravis (Narnia: The Horse and His Boy)

The two protagonists from my favorite Narnia story. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Narnia series, but these two still stand out as a dynamic duo.

“Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.”
C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

#5. Carl and Ellie (Up)

Do I really have to say anything? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

carl-and-ellie

#4. Link and Zelda (Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword)

Link and Zelda characters have a long history (as in a couple thousand Hyrulian years). But the Skyward Sword rendition of the pair takes the cake for its raw emotional impact. (Also…Zelda pushes Link off a cliff, so it’s kind of hard not to pick them.)

link-and-zelda

#3. Billy Bannister and Bonnie Silver (Dragons in our Midst)

I’m guessing the vast majority of you haven’t heard of this series (shame on you). Billy and Bonnie’s relationship starts as a pure and strong friendship, and it grows into something more meaningful and genuine than 99% of today’s fictional ‘romance’ relationships. Simply put, these two set quite the example for what a real relationship should look like. Oh, and yeah…she has wings and he breathes fire.

billy-and-bonnie

#2. Taran and Eilonwy (Prydain Chronicles)

I love everything about this couple: their genesis as mutually-aggravating allies, their development into a classic fantasy couple, and the emotional conclusion to their story at the end of the series. Note: the 80’s Disney film based on these books is garbage. They missed the mark by a mile and then some. 

“I can’t make sense out of that girl,” [Taran] said to the bard, “Can you?”

“Never mind,” Fflewddur said, “We aren’t really expected to.”
Lloyd Alexander, The Book of Three

#1. Hera and Kanan (Star Wars: Rebels)

Call it my utter geekdom when it comes to Star Wars. Call it my recent binge-watching of Rebels. Call it my “finally, a Jedi gets a proper relationship” outlook. Call it the fact that Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb make great unruly kids and Chopper makes the perfect family cat. Call it the raw emotions at the end of Season 2 (no spoilers, don’t worry!). Call it the fact that it doesn’t dominate the show, but it’s definitely there. Call it the fact that they argue, disagree, disappoint each other, forgive each other, yet always care and always help each other grow as individuals. Or call it all of the above.

kanan-and-hera


Glad you stopped by! Now run along and eat some chocolate (let’s be real: that’s the true reason for the season). In the meantime, have a great day!

5 Signs a Character Might Die

Killing off characters is a facet of storytelling that writers look forward to with glee treat carefully. A character death can pack such an emotional punch, and a lot of the time we plan ahead exactly how, when, and where a given character will kick the proverbial bucket. We try our best to keep those character deaths a surprise until the time is right.

There are, however, certain trends I’ve noticed that potentially give away which character will die next. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but next time you see a character exhibit some of these signs…well, don’t get too attached to them, just in case.

They talk wistfully about home

Ironically, the characters that talk or reminisce the most about the home and family they left behind to go on their quest are the ones who seldom make it back. Here are some key phrases to look out for:

  • “When all this is done, I’ll go home to…”
  • “Right before I set off, my wife told me…”
  • “I long to return home and meet my newborn son…”
  • “I miss […] but I’ll be there again soon.”

They get married

Characters who get married  just before or during the main conflict will probably leave their spouse in a lonely conundrum. Writers are just cruel like that. Happiness is for the single.

They have humble dreams and goals

If a character starts to talk a lot about their dream of owning a farm, or of visiting a certain place, or of witnessing a certain event…yeah, not gonna happen. Their lowly-yet-relatable ambitions make them the perfect candidates for a sacrificial and emotional end.

They dislike the protagonist at first

Ah, this guy/gal. The ally that spends the first two-thirds of the book hating our hero for questionable (if any) reasons, then makes a sudden change right around the start of Act III. You know what’s coming: they take the ultimate redemptive step by sacrificing themselves for the hero or the hero’s cause.

They embrace the concept of death

I mean, it’s kind of fitting, I guess. The character that views death as ‘the start of another journey’ or ‘not the end, just the beginning’ is, in fact, the first to get their ticket punched. Hey, at least they got a head start on that journey, right?


What are some of the clues you’ve noticed that might (or might not) give away which characters have their days numbered? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day!

22 Symptoms of Characteritis

Ever wondered if you’re actually a character in some random writer’s new story? Don’t worry! Here are some of the most common characteritis symptoms. It’s just like Googling that weird bruise on your toe: check to see if any of the symptoms match, and if one or two feel right, you’ll probably be dead by the end of the book!

Common Symptoms of Characteritis:

You frequently hold your breath without realizing it.

Your heart pounds/hammers/drums/thuds at unhealthy rates.

You get inexplicable stamina boosts.

You rely more on adrenaline than on nutrition.

You frequently lose consciousness, but you’re immune to concussions.

Your spine tingles/shivers/itches at random.

Your eyes scrunch/narrow/squint/glisten/widen/shut/open/gleam/flash every time you say something important.

You get interrupted every time you try to kiss someone.

You randomly pause whatever you were doing for a moment of intense introspection.

You frequently open your mouth to say something, then change your mind.

If others are surprised at you, they hide it well.

You often clench your fists, but only to express righteous anger.

You die a lot.

You run into random rivers a bit too often.

Your stomach curls/tightens/drops every time something bad happens, but you suffer no digestive side effects.

Your breath catches at random points in your respiratory process.

You have an identity crisis at age sixteen and change your name three times.

You have a knack for identifying the exact hue and depth of people’s eyes.

You’re prone to gunshots and stab wounds, but impervious to pulled muscles, stomach cramps, colds, and ear infections.

Falling to your knees is your compulsive response to tragedy. Your knees don’t bruise.

A funny friend starts tagging along everywhere you go.

You only have one nice teacher.


If you suffer at least three of these symptoms, you’re probably a character! I recommend you go see a specialist since you’re in for a rough ride. If your specialist has a beard and smokes a pipe, don’t get too attached to him. If your specialist is bald and wears glasses, he’ll probably try to kill you at some point.

In the meantime, have a great day!