Another rejection! Hooray! (or, lesson on dialect)

On Thursday, we got ourselves a pretty wild storm, wild enough to knock down a tree branch. As thunder grumbled above our house, I settled down after we put Daniel down to bed to surf the web and check my email. Lo and behold, I got a response for a story I sent a couple of months ago. I opened it up and immediately recognized the words “We’re going to pass at this time…”

And I thought to myself, Whoohoo!!

This is a story that I’ve been meaning to do a little revision work on anyway. It’s something I realized I needed to do when I went to the MWW and took that class on dialect with Nickole Brown. Her class on dialect really helped me a lot, so much that I requested her thesis paper on it. For the past week now, I’ve been reading it, making notes, and checking out the books she mentions to get a better idea on how to handle dialect in narrative.

Dialect’s a tricky thing. When you do a story in first person, one of things you must consider is the voice of the character who’s talking. If the main character’s a person who uses slang a lot, then you have to consider how much to use it in the narrative and how much to use it in their actual speech. This doesn’t just mean the usual words and catchphrases a person uses. It’s also a way of how they talk, if they tend to drop their ‘g’s at the end of -ing words (playin’ for playing, for instance). How a person talks shows the level of education they have, but it also depends on who they’re talking to.

In the story I wrote, there’s a woman who had a very good education; however, get her around her jive-talking, swearing uncle, and her speech becomes just like his: she starts to swearin, an’ slurrin her speech a bit, an’ talkin all crazy grammar an’ shit like dat…

The problem in the story, I realized at the class, was that I don’t think I had a good enough handle on the narrative part of the story. When she’s telling the story, I couldn’t decide whether or not if I should use more “proper” grammar and phonics, or if I should leave it in the flavor of her “ghetto talk”, so to speak. I think I wavered between the two. But now that the story’s been rejected, I can revise it to be more consistent.

I just hope I have the voice nailed down well. Ironically, I’m not really good at talking “black”. I liked to listen to it, but I could never get a hold on the slang all too well. (And when I tried to as a kid, most of the kids laughed and said ‘that is sooo old!’. So I never tried to keep up on the slang. Speaking ‘proper’ grammar seemed a whole lot easier.) In some ways, I wish I had a consultant (roll eyes here), who could look at my work and say, “Okay, she wouldn’t say it that way.” Actually, I do have someone in mind…but getting a member of your family to look at your work can also become a tricky thing…

Anyway, the whole point of this blog is to say that the rejection pretty much gave me something to focus on. I feel like I’m back at work again. Granted, it’s just a short story, but it made me eager to jump into revision mode. It’s got me quite excited. I can’t wait to start. And all this from a rejection. Who knew?

Of course, the next day–yesterday, in fact–I got another rejection notice in the email box. And that one did bring back the usual air of depression. Oh well.

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