I Can Understand You!

You never know what you will encounter when you venture to the grocery store or a movie theater. In a lot of places, we all hear languages other than our own being spoken. It may be confusing, intriguing or annoying (depending on your point of view) but most of us are used to it.

The most amazing thing about living somewhere like that is how much comfort we take in thinking we are alone in our own little world. Specifically, it’s shocking how we assume that no one can understand us if we are speaking French while the other people in the crowd are speaking Spanish. We feel like we are superior to the other people around us and that no one can touch us in our little French bubble.

The truth is, a growing number can understand and just because someone may not be speaking French, it doesn’t mean that they don’t understand French. Despite this common knowledge, however, we still feel safe in speaking other languages in public. Specifically, insulting other people.

Imagine you’re in a grocery store, debating between two wonderful tomatoes, when some random person elbows you out of the way. They are angry that you have been standing in front of the stand for five minutes picking which ones you want. Sure, we can all understand where they’re coming from, but we all do it! This angry person stomps away, grumbling in Spanish, about how stupid you are and that you should learn some manners. Though you live in a French environment, you can understand Spanish quite well, and you find this person offensive. Understandably, you throw the tomato at them, and soon there is a full-on food fight that is only broken up by the security guards ten minutes later.

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Image Credit: janeheller.com (Google)

As in this situation, we all think that no one around us can understand what we say if we say it in a different language. But, languages are moving around the globe. The odds are greater that someone will understand whatever language you speak, because languages are becoming more popular in school systems. Even if someone doesn’t speak the same language you speak, they may speak one similar that allows them to understand you.

Take an example from my life: I was waiting at the bus stop and a car stopped beside me, asking for directions to the local mall. They spoke to me in French, which I don’t speak, but I do speak Spanish, so I was able to understand most of what they said. I explained that I didn’t speak French (which is the only bit of French I do know) and then proceeded to direct them in Spanish. There was some minor confusion and complex hand motions, but it got the job done.

My point in all this is that no matter how uncommon your language may be in any given area, the odds are good that someone will understand you. So, next time you want to call someone stupid, or gossip about what they’re wearing, make sure you do it out of ear shot, otherwise you may find yourself covered in tomato juice.

The Characters Rule the World

When I was getting into writing, the thing that fascinated me most was creating characters. When I was a little kid, I would create characters in my head and they would be my imaginary friends, but they never did impossible things like flying or anything like that. Instead, they were ordinary people like me, only they were my own creations. When I learned about creating my own characters, it was like I had developed that childhood tendency of creating my own friends.

Whenever I finish a short story, or I decide to kill a novella, I always feel this kind of loss, like I’ve let go of my friends. Months after I’ve put them to rest, I miss them and contemplate bringing them back to life through another story, just because they were so much fun to write.

The most important elements of writing are the plot, setting, conflict, theme, and characters, as told to us by Flocabulary in this catchy video:

I agree that all of these are crucial, but the most important one is the characters, in my point of view. They control the entire story and the author is swept along on the ride. What do I mean by that? Well, it is essentially exactly what I just said, the characters control the story. I can start a short story with a specific idea in my head about what I want to happen, but after I get going, the characters decide they don’t like the idea and are going to create their own plot. That may sound crazy, but it’s the truth!

For example, I had these two characters, one male and one female, who had this incredible relationship with each other. I had created them with the intention of making them into a couple, but once I started working with them, it was clear it wasn’t going to work. They had this incredible chemistry, but not the romantic kind. They would bicker in every scene, and the things that they would argue about were hilarious! I found myself laughing at their dialogue as I wrote it. I could see them in my head, like a movie scene, and I didn’t really feel like I was in control of it. They were doing their own thing, and all I was doing was writing it down for them.

See, for all of us writers, the characters are real, breathing people with real emotions and lives. Some of us see them in a crowd, or in a classroom or workplace. Some of us have them on our shoulders and as we go throughout our day, we can hear them voicing their opinions on what is going on around us. They aren’t just cardboard and paper stuck together, like the paper dolls we would make as kids.

For us, our characters are real people and part of our family. I think all fellow writers will agree when I say that the characters rule the world, end of story!

Out of the Closet

 

Every writer has those stories, poems, or scripts that are hidden in their closet, deep underneath that one pair of shoes they never wear, so that no one can find it. I have my own fair share of stashed stories, but I also think they are important parts of each writer’s portfolio. We all have those terrible dialogues and cliché characters that we would rather not remember, but if we hadn’t created them, where would we be today?

For example, one of my plots involved a car crash in which my protagonist was the only survivor. Pretty basic, right? I wrote this within six months after I wrote my first short story, so I was still a baby when it came to creativity. It didn’t occur to me to throw in plot twists or just use a different plot idea in general. In my young mind, if I was an excellent writer, like we all think we are (and strive to be), then writing a basic plot story would still be interesting to read, because I would wow the readers with my amazing, unique writing style.

Obviously, that was not the case. I now understand that I have to combine a basic plot that has a few unpredictable plot twists, with my amazing, unique writing style in order to capture the attention of readers. Whenever we finish a project that we have been working on, we’re going to feel like it’s the best thing ever written, and immediately want to show it to friends or family. For some of us, that urge is quickly pushed away and the story or poem or script stays hidden deep within the files on our computers, or in a notebook hidden under the mattress.

Blank ringbound notebook and pencil

Image Credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk (Google)

In reality, sharing our work is something that should be encouraged! It gives us feedback from people that we trust. No one is going to think that we’re stupid or incapable of writing because non-writers are in awe of our skills, and any practiced reader that you give it to is going to know that everyone has to start somewhere in order to produce the books that they love to read. There is nothing to be ashamed of, because we learn important rules from every single piece we write!

Ray Bradbury speaks about his own writing experience in an interview, and his own journey through writing is one that most writers are familiar with:

The bottom line is that the more you write, the more you know. So we shouldn’t hide those terrible, sappy lines of dialogue, or plots that have more holes than a golf course. Embrace your inner reader, and remind yourself that all writers are in the same situation. We need to bring out those first pieces and show the world how far we’ve come since we started writing! You’ll be glad you did it!