1. Dameldut
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    Dameldut New Member

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    Spelling Words as spoken by a person who can't say Ls or Rs

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dameldut, Feb 24, 2016.

    Hi guys. I'm really stumped on this one as everything I think seems to conflict.

    I have a scene where a mother is trying to bandage an injury to her daughter's hands. Her son then notices that his sister had blood on her lip. Being a child he thinks she bit herself and voices this with his mother.
    Unfortunately he can't use the letters "l" and "r".
    The concern he voices is:
    "Mom I think Wachew bit hewsewf.
    Wachew being Rachel and hewsewf being herself.

    The problem I'm facing is the word hewsewf. It's not an R that a person normally pronounces but it feels like in writing it should be a "w" as had I previously stated that the boy couldn't pronounce either of those letters.

    I looked at an episode of kids react which had the girl Emma R in it. When she says the word "her" it sounds like "herw".
    I also watched the audition of Janet Devlin on X-Factor where in Elton John's "Your Song", she says the word "werwd" instead of world.

    Should I include the letter "r" to express more faithfully the sound or leave it out to express the fact that the character cannot say "r"?

    Thank you in advance for your help.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that phonetic speech is essentially never a good idea. I would spell this as,

    "Mom, I think Rachel bit herself."
     
  3. Dameldut
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    Dameldut New Member

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    The problem with that is I was going for very cute and caring in this scene as it relates to other scenes in a big way.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, if I were reading this scene with the phonetic reproduction of the child's speech, I wouldn't experience it as cute, I would experience it as, "Oh, my God, get this kid out of the scene; he's driving me crazy."

    It can still be cute without the phonetics, IMO.

    Edited to add: It would be different if you could actually hear the words--if this were a movie. But it's not.
     
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  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    My mother as a small child couldn't pronounce the letter L, and going from what my grandmother told us, her substitutions could be nonexistent, or all over the place. So "elbow" was "ebbow," and "pillow" was "pittow" and so on.

    If you really have to do it for plot reasons, get rid of the terminal ws. Maybe it's the Welsh in me coming out, but it looks like those syllables should be pronounced "oo," rhyming with "new."

    And yeah, I'd keep it to a minimum for the reader's sake. In this situation, the kid would probably avoid words with Ls or Rs in them anyway. And if he had to use them (as with his sister's name), he'd likely just leave them out or give her a nickname. So it might be more like, "Mom, I think Wachie bit hewsef." Though that "ew" construction is still misleading.

    Oh, well! Have fun!
     
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    He may even say, "Mom, I think Wachie bit self." <points at her face>

    If he can't pronounce certain words, he'd shorten or replace it to things he could pronounce; he may also use hand gestures to help visualize what he's trying to say. Phonetically speaking, it may be easier for the reader as their brain struggles to decipher what the kid's saying and get annoyed -- and thus taken out of the story.
     
  7. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I absolutely wouldn't try writing all the dialogue phonetically. Even books that are 'famed' for doing so (Trainspotting comes to mind) it just makes it hard to read. We cn stll recgnise wrds wthot al th lttrs but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to write a whole book that way. The point is that just because we can decipher the text doesn't mean we want to; it puts an obstacle between us and enjoying the text.

    That doesn't mean there's no place for illustrating speech problems within the dialogue itself though. Seriously, it's ok but you really only want to do it when it's important. When another character can't understand them, for example, then that's a good place to tweak the word they can't get out. That way we remember very clearly 'this person has a speech problem' before the next speaker misunderstand them. You don't want to do it often, but sometimes I think it's ok.

    I am a little bit torn about how to write names. It does feel just a bit too saccharine to call someone Wachel all book long but I can see arguments for it. If the childhood part is just a chapter, or Rachel isn't going to be said out loud all the much then it's something that you could use just to be cute for a little while. I like playing with my character names and a couple of mine have names that stuck because of what they were called as kids which has shades of 'couldn't quite say it right' over the top. You want to be careful for sure because going over the top will wreck it all but little touches in the right place can be very evocative without taking over the text.
     
  8. Dameldut
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    Dameldut New Member

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    I saved a copy of each variation and sent them to my editor. She said she liked the phonetics but preferred the one without. The reason she gave was that it was a lot easier to read the one without phonetic pronunciation.
    Thank you @ChickenFreak.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016

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