Young Mrs. Job needs help   10 comments

I have a question specifically addressed to anyone who has read my “Mrs. Job.” The editor with whom I’m working at TM Publications wants me to use contractions when Dara and Adah are children to give it a feel of childlike conversation. I originally have avoided contractions throughout, following the advice of an editor who pointed out that it’s a technique for giving the writing a more ancient feel. (And Mrs. Job is definitely ancient.) The most recent review on comments specifically on the ancient feel created by my use of The TM editor is not insisting, but she does feel hers is a good idea.(Of course she does;I’d worry if she didn’t).I am willing and anxious to do anything that will improve Mrs. Job.I am, however, conflicted about this proposed change. I’ll appreciate any help you can give me.

Posted May 1, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

10 responses to “Young Mrs. Job needs help

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  1. That’s really a tough question, Mona, because syntax and diction can make such an enormous difference (Yoda comes to mind, in a film example – his impact as a character would have been vastly different had his syntax been “normal” or common). What I do understand about your new editor’s suggestion is strengthening the bond between Dara and Adah through the use of vernacular, even if it wouldn’t be “true” to the story. Still, it would appeal to the modern reader, be a draw into the story, show the maturation of their bond. You are an expert at following your heart and instincts, so my response would be to trust them. And I sense that you are feeling it’s worth the try?

  2. Thanks, Pam. This is a really useful comment — of course it is, coming from you. Tomorrow I’ll have the time to read it out loud and see how it “rings” for me.”

  3. Perhaps she is right. Contractions in our language are merely more direct communication. Surely people in all languages have, and always have had, their own “short cuts”.

    • Thanks, Ann. I’ve proposed to the editor that we use contractions when Dara and Adah talk directly to each other, conveying a sense of their close friendship. I’ve also suggested that we revert to the more formal lack of contractions after Dara gets married, conveying their “entrance” into maturity and the beginning of some distance in their relationship.

  4. I was just told the same thing about my novel. I did take out all contractions, but mine is a modern story. I love the idea of reading it out loud and trusting your own heart. That is so true in writing. The heart and soul of the writer comes into the decision making-not so easy as one might think it is.

  5. I think she’s being too picky, Mona. Why would you change it? The girls’ lack of informal speech won’t make or break any of your dialogue, and I don’t think changing it now would make it any more appealing to potential readers (which might be a good motivation to try it, if it would help get this story into more hands). I liked the more formal, courteous feel of the dialogue. I like it the way it is.

  6. Mona, I loved the feeling of old times I got when <i read. I would go the other way: maybe even write thee and thou to make it feel old. Your readers tell you they liked the language. Me too. I think editots think their job is to do alterations – that's what tjhey are there for. And I may be wrong, but i think some of them are a bit like theatre-reviewers: they need to feel they are involved in a meaningful way – and i alsways get the feeling "if they know so wll how it should be done., why don't they write their own books?"
    So I might be slightly OFF here 🙂 but i really disagree with the suggestions.
    AND, as others suggest, of course it is wise to try it out and read it to yourself and alow your heart to tell you.

  7. I want to be very clear before I go on that the editor is very good to work with. I do not feel pressured at all by her. The pressure I do feel is to be sure to create a book that will appeal to potential readers. I do respect her suggestions, which is why I’ve asked for help on this one. And how wonderful you folks have been. My latest idea is to have Dara & Adah speak to each other in contractions up until the time when Dara marries, after which their conversation will pick up the more adult/formal non-contractions, reflecting two things: (1) their transition into adulthood, and (2) the growing separation between them geographically and psychologically. It will be subtle, but I think it may be effective. I’m waiting to see what the editor has to say about it. And, not so incidentally, I’ll do what I didn’t have time to do today, read it out loud to see how it feels to me.

    It is, by the way, interesting to see the extent to which those of you who have read it tend to like it the way it’s been. That pleases me.

  8. hi mona,

    I must agree with you. I had a similar issue arise with my children’s book around the use of more “colloquial” language. The editor felt that the language didn’t sound “child-like” enough but I felt that children should be exposed to language that is a little more formal and challenging. They also wanted me to delete some metaphors that I loved because children “just don’t talk like that”. We compromised a bit, I kept some of the metaphors, changed a bit of the language but kept some I felt more strongly about. In your case, it would seem like an all-or- nothing phenomenon. I think the language needs to stay as is. It has an “old” feel to it that fits the time period, and making the language sound more contemporary doesn’t fit with the image you want to create. So I vote to stay with the language as is !!

    linda scacco

  9. Thanks, Linda. Good friend, colleague, and author of “Always my Grandpa.”

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