I don’t say “hella”

PJ Colando | Hashes & Bashes

“I like reading your book, PJ. I’m getting to know your personality better,” she said as she paddled and kicked in water aerobics class.

I smiled as I paddled and kicked, too. Nice to receive a direct reader compliment. She’d honored my endeavor of writing a book – a year-and-a-half of my life – by buying it, and now she gave me more. With a big smile, genuine appreciation displayed.

And then she added a verbal kicker to the ones occurring under the pool surface. Looking directly at me, she said with a wonder-filled voice, “I’ve never heard you say ‘hella’ before.”

Gasp! And not from a sudden gulp of water sliding down my throat…

Instantly knowing to what she was referring – because I’d seriously researched the way that a resident of Central Valley California might speak. A vernacular that differed from Valley or Surfer Speak that has been vibrantly parodied on TV and in movies.

Google is great, all writers know. One call travel to distant lands or see the inner rooms of the White House. One can see fashion of any eras, faithfully catalogued by women’s wear stores and fashionistas in vogue these days. Recipes, weather, dialects and vernacular. The World Wide Web overflows with information. One merely needs to click, select a site, and read.

Add the twist, details, and finesse that one’s writing needs. Fiction or non-, much time is devoted to research. A necessity to flesh out characters, detail scenes, and nuance plots your brain lit, to convince a reader to enter and remain in your world.

And that’s what I did when I was admonished to develop, to distinguish the California interloper of my novel. While he’d worn Hawaiian shirts, a single gold earrings was added. No tats. His generation didn’t trend to that. He looked like Ronald Reagan and he said, “hella”. Not I, the author.

I finally found my voice, what slides so easily onto the page when I write. “That’s what the character says, not me” and tried to return her smile to recover from my surprise.

This happened over and over among my friends and associates, dear reader… While people are able to accept the fiction of other books, movies, and TV shows, they are wont to do this when they read my books.

Does this happen to you, if you are a writer, too. If so, how do you handle it?

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