One of the challenges of writing fantasy is trying to create the impression of otherworldly, perhaps exalted language while still keeping your language accessible to the reader. Similarly, how do you create the impression of boring dialogue without actually boring the reader? How do you create the impression of a meandering, distracted narrator without actually meandering yourself and distracting your reader? These are some of the magic tricks that a storyteller learns to perform.
In response to a prompt about homesickness, Bethany Sanders wrote a piece in the voice of an aging bard from another world who finds herself exiled to earth. Bethany faced two significant challenges in this 500-word piece. First, there was just a lot of information to convey in a small space. There are always the questions of how much information you actually have to convey, how much you can imply, how much can wait until later. Second, there is the challenge I mentioned above: a bard from another planet isn’t going to talk like the rest of us talk. Her speech needs to be unusual and surprising (and probably somewhat exalted) if it’s going to be believable. But if readers have to work too hard to understand the narrator’s speech, they’re going to give up before they get to the good stuff.
In my commentary on this piece, I look at three main ways to make the language more accessible while still maintaining the impression of otherworldly, exalted speech: word choice, sentence structure, and the connections between ideas.
In response to a post about homesickness, Jennifer Monroe wrote an excellent piece about a woman whose homesickness hits her in her new grocery store, where she can’t find her daughter’s favorite cereal. It was one of those pieces that I describe as “too good not to be a little bit better,” so I went through and gave Jennifer some very nit-picky advice. (My comments are three times longer than the original story!)
In this episode of Line Edits, we look at the first paragraph of Kimberly Wetzel’s piece about grapefruit spoons. We will look at some ways that experience gets translated into information, requiring the readers to engage the “figuring-out” part of their brains–and some techniques for converting information-driven prose back into something that engages the “experiencing” part of the reader’s brain. Kimberly submitted this essay as a response to the Food writing prompt in October 2019.