Here in Michigan, it used to be that people said goodbye with, “Have a nice day.” But with the Polar Vortex swooshing down it’s sub-zero flurries (coating the roads with a thin veneer of sabotage just waiting to slide your vehicle into a ditch), there are two new sayings in town:
“Stay warm” and
“Be careful driving.”
It’s funny how little sayings like that infiltrate our language. It made me think. Right now, I bet people in Florida and California still say, “Have a nice day.” Their world is not like my world (at least, not today).
So, that made me think again. As in, “How does this apply to my story’s world?” (Because everything applies to story.)
What makes a story world special? Isn’t it the little things that are unique and fresh? Whether a person, a place, or a phrase, it’s the little things that create memorable story.
So. Writer. In my story (and yours), are there little sayings between characters — laced with special meaning — unique to their environment and experience? Hm. I’m thinkin’…anything that makes my world special, drawing the reader in to the culture, might be a good thing to add.
Glad you asked.
Because I believe that repeated phrases, differences, and quirks build your world more than anything else. Then, just then, my reader will feel that he or she is “in on” a special part of my world. I liken it to the part of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where Jimmy Stewart always mistakenly pulls off the ball-end of the bannister when he goes up the stairs. It’s a quirk. A unique characteristic. And the third time he does it, we feel that familiarity as if we remembered being there before.
So I’m going to create a saying that’s just our saying. A piece of the story, a few words of the Hero, quirky and repetitive. So my story world becomes your world. Familiar. Expected. (Home.)
A friend of mine, upon returning from a military tour in Iraq, told me about a phrase that locals seemed to infuse in every conversation. It was “inshallah”, which translates to “Lord willing” or “if it is God’s will”.
He was impressed at how much their faith had become intertwined in their language. We tried to imagine how different American culture would be if “Lord willing” was part of all our everyday conversations.
(By the way, Erin, I love the phrase, “thin veneer of sabotage”. 🙂
Stay warm! (Lord willing)