Sunday, October 17, 2010

Things I Learned from Editing

A thing I learned from editing my short story 'Hurricane Drunk' is that I, as a writer, have to pay attention to the consistency of worldbuilding and that even that the smallest of details that rings false can snap a reader from reading whatever suspension of disbelief you have created. My long travels around the interwebs have proved the existence of such readers and now I'm reminded after stumbling on a conundrum in my own writing.

In 'Hurricane Drunk' my main character Tatyana converses with a sentient hurricane via the widely spread Morse Code. Now, in the original text I actually give the combination of dots and dashes that represent the word 'why' in Morse Code, but that is the English word in the original, English Morse Code. For those aware that Tatyana is in fact a Ukrainian/Russian name and that the witch in the hut with four chicken legs is Baba Yaga then they'd think that I tell a story set in Russia with Russian speaking characters, which is in fact what I'm doing.

It would make no sense to use then the English 'why' and translate it with the English Morse Code as that would be clashing with the consistency of the rules I established, even if I had not made them obvious. There would be always someone to spot it out [during submissions or eventually after publication], so I thought that it would be better to go with the Russian 'why' [почему for those interested] and then go with the Russian Morse Code. BUT then I'd have people wondering why so many dots and dashes one needs for a simple 'why'.

At this point I have to say I realized that this is a minor detail with little significance to the story as a whole, so I got that out of the scene. This is the second thing that I learned from editing my short story, learn when a detail is of importance to the story or not. In this case, I did not think it was important enough to follow it up.


Charles Gramlich said...

it's often a fine line to walk between being realistic and being able to communicate to the reader. The use of a language like English is a good example. I try to have it both ways but often you have to lean to one side or the other and it's probably safest to lean toward communication.

Harry Markov said...

Indeed. A writer should never confuse his writers, even if we want to include some awesome information that will give us personal satisfaction. :)