Sunday, October 17, 2010

Color your Writing with Foreign Languages

What is Your Favorite Color?

Hello everyone. I have spent some time traveling and making good use of time and the languages I've learned over the years, including spanish. I would like to share what I hope is a thought provoking experience that might inspire you to write.

An effective means of demonstrating character development resides in a character's response to a unique situation. What if your character finds herself in a rush to catch a train, but no one around her speaks her language, and all the street signs, brochures and schedules are written in a foreign language. How would she handle it?

I am spending some time enjoying Mexico and Costa Rica. ( By the way, I speak six languages, therefore, should you need help, contact me) . During an excursion to an island called Las Mujeres, I noticed a few Americans, staring at a sign in Spanish, puzzled. One man started to aboard the boat, changed his mind and returned to the same sign, uncertain that he had the right boat.

What would your protagonist have done in that situation? Would he/she have brought a dictionary, or consulted a tudor, or perhaps, attended a spanish class prior to the trip?

I've found this to be a thought provoking exercise toward tremendous character development without the need of narrative and explanation.

It presents an opportunity to show rather than tell. You know the drill.

Furthermore, the act of providing street signs (in a foreign language) also help create scene development. For example, a man is about to step off the curb into the street where there is no street light, yet there is a sign that he does not understand. A car is coming fast, but a good samaritan grabs him by the hand to prevent an imminent accident. Which part of this scene would your protagonist/antagonist have played?

Another example may be that of a gentleman and lady who recently met. Let's put them in a coffee shop chatting. Let's say they enjoyed one anothers company and the gentleman is about to leave.

" Encantado que concerte," he said, meaning it has been a pleasure to know you, however, since he used the verb encantar, he has made a warm, almost personal greeting expressing feeling.

What if she smiled, turned to leave, stopped, turned around and smiled, again. What if he walks up to her and gives her a big warm hug? Next, looking over her shoulders as he embraced her, he noticed a sign on the wall.

What did it read? Did she help him to understand or was he to shy to ask?

Explorative scenes such as those above can help stimulate very colorful writing because it immediately, takes the reader abroad, vicariously.

During your next trip abroad, take more photos of people and foreign street signs to jog your memory when you return home. You might be suprised how it will help spruce up an existing story and stimulate a new story idea.

Well, what are you waiting for? Pull out those old photographs and see what happens.