Saturday, 5 October 2013

skaz in literature (with a story of Syd and Sally)

A Clockwork Orange. The Catcher in the Rye. Huckleberry Finn. Their Eyes Were Watching God. "West Side Story". "ER". That blog post by a teenager with horrible grammar and slang everywhere. What do all of these have in common?

Skaz, ladies and gents. That is, the use of spontaneous language that mirrors speech. Written from a first person perspective, where the narrator is a character as well, revealed through his/ her use of language. Or, in the case of cop shows, law dramas, or the turtle from Finding Nemo ("Duuuude"), the ornamental use of what I like to call "shop talk". Gives a film, book, theatrical work, whichever, an authentic sense of place, social dynamic, and character.

Personally, I'm a big fan of this method. Skaz can be used to create dissonance between the world we are used to and the environment of a particular story. Something I'm learning about writing all the time is that it is better by far to be specific. Don't say Sally is a twelve year old in love with a pop star, say that she has a poster of Jusitn Bieber on the back of her bedroom door that's held up with four generous strips of masking tape. And then cringe a little. Poor Sally, she should know that there are better kinds of music in the world. Don't just say it's a nice day out, say there's sunny blue and a breeze. Sally blows Bieber (ugh) a kiss on her way out the door, and leashes up the family dog, Maximillan, for a pleasent afternoon walk. Hey, there's that weird punk kid on skateboard. "Sup Sally?" "Oh, not too much, Syd, how are you?" "Hey, I downloaded this sick song on iTunes last night, you should check it out." "Okay, thanks Sid." Sally doesn't even realize that this song is going to change her life. Syd slides off, rumbling along the sidewalk like a train off its tracks. After the walk and feeding Maximillan a dish full of dry kibble and bits, Sally sits at the family computer, a clunky white PC from the early 2000s, and looks up the song on YouTube. As the song rushes over her, her world is changed. No longer is she in love with Justin Bieber (sorry, Justin, I'm really too mean to you), nor has she fallen in love with George Fredric Handel whose sweet Water Music is at the moment totally changing her world: she is fully and unremittingly in like with Syd.

See what I did there? We have Syd's teenage "skaz" to contrast Sally's conventional middle-class speak, but also, the narrative voice has a particular style and flavor, yes? This could be considered meta-fiction, as the author is interjecting into the story, but if I did end up making my "skaz" persona into a character, it would become a first-person narrative, using colloquial language with a feel of spontaneity and impression of natural speech-patterns. Even this blog post as a whole could be considered "skaz"!

Enjoy this tune of classic gang-speak. Next week: the Absurd!

No comments:

Post a Comment