The Real Color of a Beautiful Epiphany by J J Dare

There is a little boutique in the middle of town one of my daughters loves. Every time she comes to visit, we end up going to this quirky little dress shop.

Hanging in the window display was a beautiful blue blouse. Well, I’ll correct myself: a beautiful blouse. My daughter argued it was not blue. She said it was a beautiful green blouse.

She wears contacts and I wear glasses, we’re both corrected to 20/20, so it was a toss-up as to who was right. We consulted the dress shop owner, who, though she’s been helpful before, was no help now.

“It says ‘blue-green’ on the invoice,” she said with a shrug and a smile.

My daughter and I looked at it again.

“Blue,” I said.

“Green,” she said.

Impasse, we both agreed.

She saw green and I saw blue. As it turns out, we were both right.

We all view the world around us through different eyes. What I see may never be exactly what you see. It makes it very interesting to know you are viewing life in your own unique way and in a way no one else can.

Within the structure of my novels is the language of normal, every day people. What I didn’t take into account was what is normal to me (y’all back yet, don’t that beat all, how’s it going, you gonna eat that, etc.) may not be normal to others.

My language is common and somewhat regional. However, what is common and regional to me may be foreign to others. The same holds true with writing: what I consider stuffy and stiff may be normal language to some people.

I’m loose and free in my conversational skills and it reflects heavily in my writing. I talk like the everyman. I write the same way.

But, there in front of my face was the type of stilted writing I typically steer clear of. The dialogue between the characters was as if they were putting on airs. Their affected conversation sounded silly and pretentious.

I read a few comments on this little piece of writing and was very surprised to see some people (including two English professors and a linguistics major) were raving about how they loved the writing.

Eh, well, I could see that. These were people who preached “the word is the word” and lived in the world of proper language. Even though I’m an English major, I’ve often thought I was better suited for a Real World English degree.

A few more comments came in and these were from ordinary students. One was in biology, two were business students, and one was aiming for a major in whatever he had enough credits for by the time his funding ran out.

They echoed the education professionals: they loved the style of writing.

What the heck was going on? I looked at the excerpt again and still found the words lacking in warmth, sincerity and realism. I was a harsh critic, blunt where I’m usually kind and sharp where I’m typically gentle. After all, who is the best critic of one’s own writing but oneself?

I had written a short dialogue as an exercise in writing outside of my normal style. I was mimicking the stilted style I found unreal and unnatural. I was mocking what I, apparently, didn’t understand.

Like the real world, the world of writing is subject to the eye of the beholder. While I found this type of writing abnormal and uncomfortable, others did not see it that way.

I learned a lesson. What is not liked by one person is loved by another. Pickled herring is yucky to me, but I know plenty of people who swear by it.

On that day, I learned that green is blue and blue is green and I shouldn’t judge a book, even one of my own, by its cover.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The Real Color of a Beautiful Epiphany by J J Dare

  1. I’m sure the blouse was blue, J J because the mom is always right.

    But I hear you. I’m with you, I agree with you; we’re on the same page, but perhaps of different books.

    My use of language in the January books has been criticized for being too lavish. “Nobody talks like that” is a common response. But I do talk that way. Does that make me a nobody? Others have said it works well to give a feel for its other period flavor. However, there comes a time in most books where an ear for vernacular is a precious commodity; where the writer has to set aside his inner editor when it comes to use of the double negative and other colloquialisms that add color and realism to our text.

    Ring Lardner comes to mind. Lardner lived at the beginning of the last century and was, like me, a Michigander (not to be confused with a Michiganian). A sportswriter of no small renown, he wrote a series of fictional letters that appeared as a serial in The New Yorker. These letters, later collected under the single title You Know Me Al, were written under the guise of a ballplayer during his first year in the big leagues. Lardner’s ear for the dialect, the lingua franca, is nothing short of spectacular, perhaps the best I’ve ever read, even if I initially found the going a trifle difficult; in time it was a joy. I was so moved by it that I wrote a review of the book on Amazon taking the same approach. It was a great exercise, checking my inner editor at the door and giving myself the freedom to write freeform, replete with typos and gnarled grade school grammar. What fun it was!

    What it comes down to is connecting with the reader, giving them believable characters that speak believable dialogue: a streetwise gang member is not going to speak the same as a Wall Street executive.

    Oh, and I love creamed herring.

  2. thesnoopyone

    JJ I feel the same way you do about writing outside your comfort zone. I try but I find I can’t do it. I talk the way I write and vise versa and that works for me. That is in the manner of what you call real world english. I can appreciate works written in proper english; like Dickens or Hardy or the Brontes. It’s not my style.

  3. J.J., I found your post fascinating. How true it is that people view things quite differently. I recently had a short story edited and the editor insisted I use conjunctions in all my dialogue. I don’t always speak that way myself, and in this case, I was differentiating between a formal speaker and a casual one. It was difficult to convince the editor to leave my dialogue as it was in order for the reader to be aided in understanding who was speaking. I found that interesting.

  4. Definitely green. My family are always complaining when I say things are green that they consider blue. I always say their navy socks are black too. And I’m apparently hopeless at sorting out pairs, but not so hopeless that the guys feel inspired to sort them for me.

  5. Good post. Reading about your professors reminded me of my senior English class. Our teacher loved the way one of the girls wrote–very flowery and somewhat stilted. Which was fine, but it didn’t seem real to me at the time and probably wouldn’t today. I like basically recording in my writing the way I hear actual conversations. (Okay, not actually real because I’m writing them, but the way real people in my area talk).

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