I recently read an article about Jacqueline Wilson (link) and amongst the views attributed to her was that she believed that “Electronic life has wiped out books.” This seems like a strong statement but what is the truth behind it? According to the Washington Post (link) there has been over a 16% decline in adults who read at least one literary work per year from 1982 to 2015 from just under 57% to 43.1%. I find that quite shocking as the percentage in 1982 already seems low.
Apparently there are more things to amuse us nowadays. With our smartphones we can surf the web or read our emails, play games or watch more television programs. I am a fan of television series and do watch a number of films and programs a week but one important thing I find with the cinematic art form is that while it may exercise your brain with issues brought to the fore, it doesn’t drive your imagination.
Surely imagination is the well spring for creativity. Without imagination our whole society would struggle to function. How would we develop, how would we grow without that capacity to think what would be and then working out how to get there? And surely books are the playground for that creativity.
I’m not saying that books are the only playground for any of the creative arts will do that. Sculpture, basket weaving, drama, embroidery, painting, etc.. are all pastimes that will drive the imagination. But when we simply hover over what I would call static detail, that which is fixed and cannot be changed, then our imagination will die.
I don’t think Jacqueline Wilson is totally right, well, not yet. But she certainly has hit the nail on the head with how things are heading.
I imagined there would be deep technical discussions about the style I had used in my sentences. Back and fro, we would pick out nuances, refining the meaning of words and searching out the real underlying gems of my novel. My masterpiece would be broke apart and reassembled, pristine and glorious, changing the world’s view for ever about, well, everything. Okay, so maybe not quite all that. But there was something that came along that I didn’t expect.
I am in the final throes of editing my manuscript for my first novel, Crescendo!, working into the night on my editor’s comments and generally it has been fun, tiring, thought-provoking and eye opening. However, one thing has made me laugh. When writing for a world audience, one has to think about those words which can be misunderstood, or seem quite foreign. Coming from a British perspective, this means that American readers may not get my meaning. So what words have been causing a little trouble.
Arse, ass, backside. When to use which one. The character would usually refer to “arse”, a north american audience understands “ass” best and on occasions, the moderate and all encompassing “backside” is used. It’s not the glamour I was expecting! When I got to the “fag” that Austerley, one of my main characters, was smoking, I pre-empted the editor’s emergency delivery of “cigarette”.
The choice to keep language true or to open it up to others is an awkward one. At times I have used Russian with no translation to keep the reader in view of a character. Each situation is unique and requires full attention. Providing a manual may in this case be counter-productive. But I have learnt that keeping the voice of a character and making that voice understood is a dynamic situation due to the variety in our English dialects, never mind when a book is translated into a completely different language.
G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!