8.31.2005

Snarklings Wrestle the Snarkomter, bout 46



Senator "Jolly"Roger Claymore lay in bed in his cabin aboard the yacht Oil Wench waiting for the beauty queen to join him. Rosalie was in the head, and Roger was patient because he knew how women were, especially young, beautiful ones.

The Senator put his big, sunburned arms behind him on the pillow and attempted to give some serious thought to when they would dock at Miami the next day, and the paparazzo would swarm around him. But the thoughts were no match for his feeling of almost idiotic laissez faire. He began to laugh, a deep rumbling sound in his broad chest.


laissez-faire? not a phrase you see describing somnolence very often.

Paparazzo? You may not know this but the word paparazzo is actually a name. Three points if you know whose name. However, if there's a swarm there's more than one, and thus it's paparazzi, not o.


"Wal, worsh yore hands and bring me mah bacon and aigs."


dialect is hard to render in print. It's particularly hard to render a southern accent in print without making someone look stupid. I'm never sure why writers attempt dialect on the page. It slows down the narrative as you try to figure out what someone is saying and it's just as effective to say someone has an accent as to try to duplicate it. And if by some really horrid mischance you are using the fact that he has a southern accent to indicate he IS stupid....well, Miss Snark has some soap to wash out your mouth.


Claymore, Chairman of the powerful Justified Means Committee, was recalling the punch line of a joke, one of the many that his good buddy, Jay Barnes Shafer, the Oil Wench's owner, had filled his ears with on this cruise. This particular joke had to do with an oil field driller who went into a diner where he ate the same breakfast every morning. One morning the waitress handed him a menu and told him that she'd just scratched what he liked.

"Wal, worsh yore hands--" The jokes came straight off Jay Barnes' rigs, they were crude, almost always about women's body parts, but unlike oil, inexhaustible.


backstory backstorbackstory...and a lot of tell instead of show.


The senator bellowed toward the closed bathroom door, "Honey, whut in the bejesus are you doing in there?"

The only sound that came back from behind the door was that of water running.

"C'mon, Baby, Ah'm give out," Roger drawled in Texanese, sinking deeper into the pillows. "Don't be so vayahnn..."


This is probably a victim of First Page Syndrome but right now all we've got is a guy lying in bed laughing to himself. To misquote a Texan description this is "all hat, no cattle". Of course the girl is gone or dead, but I'd get her dead quicker and earlier.


This is a pass.

8 comments:

kitty said...

Paparazzo was the celebrity photographer in La Dolce Vita.

Anonymous said...

Just a note on accents, some of my favorite books use accents in dialogue (I'm thinking specifically of Kate Forsyth's The Witches of Eileanan series and C. J. Cherryh's Faery in Shadow), but they use it well. Their Eyes Were Watching God is another good one (though I know some people that had trouble understanding the dialogue at first).

I do have trouble deciphering some of the dialogue in the Red Wall books, or at least I did when I was twelve.

Anonymous said...

Stephen King used just one word of spelled-out dialect in the very first sentence of From a Buick 8 and I think it works amazingly well:

"Curt Wilcox's boy came around the barracks a lot the year after his father died, I mean a lot, but nobody ever told him get out of the way or asked him what in hail he was doing there again."

Usually I agree with Miss Snark about dialect but that one's an exception.

(Yeah, I have the book right here, in my TBR pile.)

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying your critiques very much, but what does the term "First Page Syndrome" mean?

I admit to being slow as it took me a while to figure out the "worsh yore hands" joke.

Anonymous said...

Golly, Miss Snark, I think you're a little hard on these writers. I thought the joke in this one was very cleverly placed, not back story, and a real hoot. Are you sure you got it?

Miss Snark said...

Guess I didn't get the joke...want to explain it?

Anonymous said...

Uh, Miss Snark, the joke is simple. Imagine an old oil field roustabout telling the story. "This driller goes into the same diner every morning and has the same breakfast. He goes in one morning, and the waitress says to him before he even opens the menu, "I scratched what you like." And he says, "Wal, worsh your hands and bring me my bacon and aigs."

Maybe you have to have heard these kinds of jokes before. You do know what "scratched" means in a restaurant? Well, the joke gives a different meaning to it. I think this is a neat way to begin a story and show what a character is like.

Miss Snark said...

If good ol Jolly Roger was telling the joke to the beauty queen in the bathroom, it wouldn't be backstory-and my complaint was that it was backstory, not the joke itself. As it's written now, it's backstory, and removes the reader from the scene. And, I have no idea what scratched means in restaurant talk. Miss Snark worked her way through college selling the Brooklyn Bridge to rubes, not flipping flapjacks at the local GagNPuke.