Friday, June 8, 2012

FAN #81C: "Ball and Chain" by Johnny Pez

Now up at the Sobel Wiki, along with an article on Thomas Jefferson, are the For All Vignettes #81C: "Ball and Chain" by yours truly, and #91C: "Hidden Menaces", a collaboration between myself and M. G. Alderman.  The former continues the coronation of King Fernando of New Granada in June 1974, and the latter Evangeline Gilmore's visit to a Mexican Air Force base a month later.

"Ball and Chain" was first posted to the soc.history.what-if newsgroup on 3 May 2002, and "Hidden Menaces" on 10 September 2002.

"Hidden Menaces" brings up a technical question on writing.  When you have a character who speaks with a thick accent, how do you represent it in writing?  One option is to represent the character's accent phonetically, for instance by having a character with a Southern accent say "Ah do declayah!"  This was the preferred method of my FAN colleagues David Mix Barrington and M. G. Alderman.  Me, I preferred to simply mention the character's accent, stick to standard spelling, and let their choice of vocabulary suggest their accent.  Since Alderman was the primary author of "Hidden Menaces", his views prevailed, and so much of the dialogue in the film The Hidden Menace is nearly incomprehensible.

1 comment:

DaveMB said...

In general I think you're right that phonetic cues should be limited or even avoided entirely. I know that the general advice to scriptwriters is to work with your actor -- they will own the line more if they can come up with their own line reading rather than having one forced on them. (The same advice holds for parenthetical comments, emphasis, etc.) In my own defense, I had done a lot less acting in 2002 when I was writing these.

We are writing here for a reader who is going to form the dialogue in their head, so in a way we are also writing a script and collaborating with an actor. We don't want to spell every one of Hans' and Franz' w's as v's, I don't think, but we do want to give the reader some cues here and there. I remember reading Lloyd Alexander books aloud to my daughter (now a college graduate) and noticing all the help he gave me as an author to give each character a different voice. I hope that Skinner's "Ah" and dropped g's in "ing" fall into that category.