Wednesday, February 2, 2011
"I had to get ready for the gala."
Full stop. What 16-year old teenager within the sound of my voice says the word gala for party? I would guess not very many, or at least only those who have time-traveled here from the 1800's wearing ball gowns and top hats.
Unfortunately that one little word took me out of the story and all of a sudden I could hear the author's 40-year old voice and not her main character's. Not good for a story.
Then it happened again on Sunday night. While watching SECRETARIAT on DVD, near the end of the film when Penny Chenery's children were watching their Mom's horse on television, one of the kids shouts out "Awesome!" when Secretariat crossed the finish line. It was quick. But, still. Awesome was not part of the 1970's vernacular. My husband and I couldn't help but look at each other and roll our eyes when we heard it. Any Baby Boomer worth his salt knows that. So, like a splash of cold water, it took us out of the movie and rudely threw us back into present-day. We still loved the movie, the awesome slip-up notwithstanding. Fortunately it happened near the end of the movie.
Words do matter. That's why we rewrite our novels six times (or more) and make sure we have plenty of critique partners. Because it's a bummer for everybody when we get it wrong, especially for the people who very much want to crawl into our stories and stay there for a while. And even for our mothers who love everything we write.
P.S. And speaking of words--100 of them, as a matter of fact--I learned yesterday that I'm a finalist in Elena Solodow's 100-word Sentence Challenge. Remember my monster-long sentence a couple of weeks ago about my beloved green lava lamp? Well, it's one of six finalists. How cool is that, but please read all the entries. They're all very clever and it's just been fun to be part of this challenge. Kudos to Elena, too, for hosting. If you ever need to get over writer's block, I highly recommend trying to string together 100 words with no punctuation.