I started reading a book not that long ago, and two things sort of reached out and grabbed me while I was reading. One was a failure in foreshadowing, and once I got over my initial WTH? reaction, I was ok with it. The other… was very subtle, and one I can see in many books.
The main character in this book is supposed to be a barely-above-teens gang kid (on another planet, true) who lives in a ‘nest’ a house in a city where it’s sort of post-apocalyptic… Anyway. He talks like a well-educated middle-aged man. The internal dialogue rambles on about his inexperience and naivety, but that he’s even self-aware of it, let alone talks so very well – it’s cogntive dissonance, I realized thanks to another book I’d read while taking a break from this one.
Linguistics, a field in which I have only dabbled, but Sarah has promised to come heckle me about, can tell a lot about a person. For instance, I can tell a lot about someone from their facebook postings. I can tell in a private chat if a friend is in pain or distress from their word choices. I suspect if you focused on it, you would realize you can do the same.
In text-based communication, you don’t have body language to rely on, and whether we realize it or not, most of us (even the socially oblivious) read another person like a book during a conversation. Some people are very good at it. I’ve never been formally trained in cold reading, but I sat through a lot of material on it while my ex was. It’s… fascinating.
However, on the pages of a book we rely on the words. And a half-educated (at best) kid is not going to use the same words, or string a sentence together neatly. It’s easier to simply write without contemplating the semantics of a world that doesn’t exist, but a little bit goes a long way. On the other hand, you don’t want to be writing in a lexicon that means you need a massive glossary for your readers.
The judicious use of a few made-up words, some mangled dialogue, and perhaps the removal of internal dialogue to third-person narration would have made my experience with this book a lot easier, wrapping my head around the character. And maybe have him do a ‘quick-learning’ session that we all know and love from classic SF. I know I could use those right now, as the semester is coming on like a frieght train.
I’m keeping this short today, I need to go watch Spanish videos (slow learning!) and amuse myself with how much literal translation of Spanish to English sounds like Yoda-speak. Which reminds me, an excellent example of the use of linguistics to convey character backgrounds would be either Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. No, don’t ask why one thing led to another… my brain is leaping around like a grasshopper on a hot skillet today.