Blogger: Etta Wilson
Location: Books & Such Nashville Office
Weather: Still hot
At a recent writers conference, I was surprised to see that two of popular tween author Nancy Rue’s books in the Lily Series are set outside the U.S.—one in Paris and one in Rome. I bought the one about Lily in Paris and noted the text contained easy-to-understand words and phrases like mademoiselle and gendarme, tres magnifique and petite dejeuner in this fast-paced story for middle-grade girls. Along with the mention of famous French sites and French character names, these words did a lot to maintain the feel of the story without being a distraction.
Whether you’re writing for kids or adults, I’d like to know how much play you give to a different language when it’s appropriate. Here are some questions for evaluation:
- Have you ever set a book in a foreign country? What opportunities and what obstacles did it present?
- Has an editor or reader ever questioned your use of a non-English word in a manuscript?
- Have you ever tried reading a portion of your manuscript to an ESL American citizen?
- In writing fiction, do you tend to see your characters act rather than hear the tone and timbre of their voices in dialog?
- What non-English ancestors do you have, and how many generations back were they? Are there still family practices you can trace to that heritage?
We are truly a melting pot—and the richer for it I think. At least our characters can be.