Time for another awesome guest post! This time I’m honored to be hosting Tracey Alley, a writer of fantasy fiction and a master of short forms including flash fiction! Take it away Trace:
Never Rains But It Pours & Other Such Nonsense
I used to hear this expression from the adults in my life a lot as a kid and I could never quite figure it out. Of course now I’m one of those dreary adults and have caught myself using the same expression many times. These days I know what it means – which is basically that if things start to go wrong they often keep getting worse. The problem is today that I work as a writer for a living and as a consequence I really think about words. Why do we use them? Where did they come from? And, maybe most importantly, why is the English language peppered with these odd expressions and strange turns of phrase?
Perhaps other languages also have the same odd expressions or word usages but I’m not familiar enough with any of them to say one way or another with any certainty. It would be quite interesting to find out though. English is, though, my native language and it seems to be rife with odd ways of saying things. Then if you add in all the ‘old wives tales’ you get a very colourful language indeed. Maybe that’s the reason we do it – after all the human animal is essentially a very creative creature. We crave originality and variety yet at the same time we tend to fall into patterns of speech and behaviour and more often than not many people complain of ‘falling into a rut’.
As a writer I use language very differently depending entirely upon the intended audience. When I’m writing my books for example, particularly the fantasy novels and short stories, I use an almost medieval manner of speech with few cliché’s and none of our every day metaphors. In my most recent novel, The Jenny Factor [coming soon], set in the 21st Century I am able to use much more colourful language and include many of our every day expressions. Yet even in those two comparisons there are even more differences. In a fantasy novel you have to ‘world build’ or create an entirely new world for your characters to exist in. This requires more description and subtle explanations of how that world and its’ people work and operate. In a modern novel you don’t have to explain to the reader how the world works – they live in it so too much description would take away from the story rather than enrich it. When I write flash fiction or children’s tales, again, the writing and words used for each much be very different.
I could go on endlessly about the differing ways of writing but the nuts and bolts [caught me], as it were, of my point is that the English language offers an enormous array of different manners of speech and writing. It is precisely because we have that huge scope of choice that our choices become so important. It would be, for example, completely bizarre to use certain ways of speech in certain circumstances. If we’re at the coffee shop chatting I’m definitely not going to use the formalized and medieval manners of speech that I use in my fantasy novels. But then neither am I going to use the clipped and edgy manner of speech that I use in writing flash fiction or a mystery/thriller. It simply wouldn’t be appropriate.
So I guess, at the end of the day [yep – you caught me again 🙂 ], what I’m trying to say is that in truth I believe we are very lucky to have the variances of speech that is offered by the English language. And furthermore, these variances are in an almost constant state of change with new expressions, new slang and new venues for different types of speech. I would never write ‘lol’ in any of my published works or while speaking personally with someone but use it all the time in text messaging, FaceBook chatting etc. And I’m very happy I’ve got it to use, along with all the other odd and colourful expressions we have – no matter how odd they may sometimes sound. 🙂 [My mother, for example, hated the expression ‘I’m going to jump in the shower’ – she would always point out that no one actually jumps into a shower.]
As a professional writer, words and language are the tools of my trade. And just like any other tradesman I have to use the right tool at the right time. As a person however I’ll keep using cliché’s, odd expressions and ‘old wives tales’ because they keep conversation flowing easily and let’s be honest, they’re fun and everyone knows what they mean. And so, as we used to say when I was a kid although it has now fallen completely out of use – I’ll catch you on the flipside 🙂