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Archived Author Help > Deliberate bad spelling?

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message 1: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments Hi guys, a quick question. I'm planning to write a novella from the POV of a rather warped eleven year old. Since spelling isn't her forte and it's written in diary format, would I get away with deliberate bad spelling? My worry is that people won't realise it's intentional and switch off - or, worse, be annoyed by the character's voice. I was thinking along the lines of a female Molesworth, only much darker.


Tara Woods Turner As a reader I don't mind a bit of intentional misspellings when the story requires it, but too much is distracting and jarring, no matter the reason. Of course poor spellers can be diarists, especially at that age but as a reader I would assume that a writer would also be an avid reader and would be more familiar with how to spell things better. I believe poor grammar is much easier to get used to as part of a character's idiosyncrasy. Just my two cents - none of these factors are mutually exclusive. Sounds like an interesting novella :)


message 3: by Eva (new)

Eva Pasco (evapasco) | 90 comments I think your character dictates you will need to include spelling errors in her diary entries--I just wouldn't overdo it. Perhaps you could italicize the diary entries to set them apart from your main story text as one does with backstories. This would make it easier for the reader to follow.


message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael Worthington | 21 comments Mary Lyons wrote "Letters From a Slave Girl" that used this technique very effectively. It starts with the grammar and spelling errors one would expect from a beginner, and as the girl aged, her spelling, grammar and vocabulary improves.

The choice of font face would be critical as a clue to the reader that the "mistakes" were intentional. Also, you have to consider the point of view of your target readers. Good luck with your project; just go for it.


message 5: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 364 comments Rachael wrote: "Hi guys, a quick question. I'm planning to write a novella from the POV of a rather warped eleven year old. Since spelling isn't her forte and it's written in diary format, would I get away with de..."

I generally believe in being true to a character's voice when writing, but this particular instance is tricky. You can certainly proceed as planned, but be prepared for the inevitable reviews that criticize your spelling or even report the book to Amazon for quality issues.


message 6: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments I concur with Ken.

Maybe since yours is obvious, after all she is a young girl, people will see it as character building, but not every one will.

For example, I had problems with my own books. It's written from an alien point of view who doesn't always master his English. Some of my betas told me to leave it like that because it made him more real but I still got a lot of 'bad score' for it. I ended up doing corrections (with the kind help of Christina). (His English will never be perfect, and he still uses the wrong words sometimes, but that's part of who he is. )

Anyway, all that to say that if you go with the bad spelling, I suggest you only do it on a few obvious words. Most of it will show in the way she speaks, in the special voice you'll give her. Show the readers she struggles with spelling so they'll know it's done on purpose. But don't overdo it. I agree it can be distracting.


message 7: by Tyler (new)

Tyler Harris (tylersharris) | 36 comments I immediately think of A Clockwork Orange, even though that's more of a language thing than a spelling thing. Still, that's what it's best known for, I think it was because the narrative flowed smoothly even when there were words that tripped you up. There is also a sentence or two in the novel explaining how the words came about. In the end, I think it's all about context. As long as a reader can see the misspelled word and take it as is...I don't think it'll be too much of a problem.


message 8: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4353 comments Mod
Go for it. What I might do, though, would be to start the book with something like, "This is the diary of Jennie June Mosley. It is privat, personel and it is mine. This is my haven, one place I canot be judged, not even by the speling nazis."


message 9: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Ah Dwayne, I love that! :)


message 10: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments Love all your suggestions. I'll give it a whirl and see how it goes. I thought about having a font that looked like handwriting as well, but that might prove difficult to read.

And Dwayne, that's a brilliant idea!


message 11: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) | 629 comments @Mr Dwayne: I freakin' looooove that!!!

@Miss Rachael: I kinda like the idea, actually. I'm sure you'll have some haters, but at least you'll be memorable. I'm a big fan of being memorable XD Just my 2 cents.

Hugs,
Ann


message 12: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 787 comments Maybe indicate in the beginning. before you start the story that it's from the perspective of an 11 yr old and there's going to be intentional spelling mistakes. It seems silly but may be necessary to avoid people being critical.


message 13: by J. (new)

J. Quantaman (joquantaman) | 16 comments If deliberate misspellings are pertinent to the narrative or character development, flag them for endnotes where you (the author) explain your intentions for readers who need such explanations.


message 14: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) If you want to see how a story from a child's perspective can engage the reader's attention, I recommend that you read Room, by Emma Donoghue. It reads almost like a diary by a 5-year-old, and it's very well done, although some readers complained that the beginning was too slow. Your child is older, so you'll have to adjust for that. I'm sure that there are many other books out there from a child's perspective as well, if you look for them.


message 15: by Mat (new)

Mat Blackwell | 33 comments Dwayne's solution is pure jeenias. I love it!
I also wrote a story aaaaages ago, one third of which is from the point of view of a near-illiterate skinhead, and all those sections were written filled with bad spelling and grammar, because, like you say, the character demands it. (Another third of the book was written in faux-middle-ages Fantasy Dialect. Eep!)
Iain Banks' 'Feersum Endjinn' sci-fi book was also largely written with incredibly odd spelling for one of the characters, whose automatic translator was damaged (and I think he did a similar thing for a barbarian character in 'The Bridge'? It's been a long time since I read it). Anyway, point is, readers can cope with such things! And it sounds like, in your case, it'll add heaps to the character's tale. I like.


message 16: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4353 comments Mod
Mat wrote: "Dwayne's solution is pure jeenias."

Ah. I see what you did there with the intentional bad spelling, Matt. No one is fooled. You know how to spell your name.

Kidding.

I'm going to rip off my own idea for the novel I'm cobbling together. The spelling is not intentionally bad (all bad spelling will be pure accidental), but it is first person, told by a character with terrible grammar. I'm going to have him give a "screw you" to the grammar police right away. He's just that kind of guy.


message 17: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) | 629 comments Dwayne wrote: "I'm going to have him give a "screw you" to the grammar police right away. He's just that kind of guy."

This guy. I dig this guy.


message 18: by Mat (new)

Mat Blackwell | 33 comments Me too. Especially considering that Shakespeare spelled/spelt his name differently each time he signed it, and made up words and expressions all the time. That's what WE should be doing, as writers: MAKING SHIT UP IS OUR JOB.


message 19: by Ulff (new)

Ulff Lehmann | 7 comments I'm not against it, but it depends on the format. If all of this is diary format, and the reader knows it is, all is well, but if you write normal non-diary stuff in between things might get hinky.

If every entry is prefaced by a date, and maybe a location (never wrote diaries, so what the hells do I know) and is purely written in character, go for it!


message 20: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
I have a character in one of my Novelettes who 'doesn't proofread what he writes' and 'makes mistakes while typing'. As the books are set in a world where people need to type to talk, it lead to him having some errors while talking. It is even tied to the plot.

I made sure to call him out on it and mention it a few times when it was happening. I think that would help you as well. If you make sure that early on in this story there is an angry diary entry about 'loosey' Mrs. Fitzgivings giving her a bad mark due to words 'spelt' wrong and bad grammings and that she can stuff it up her fat rump because the story I told was super amazin'! - Then you sort of cover yourself.


message 21: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments There's a young adult book - can't remember the title - in which the entire story is misspelled since it's supposed to be written by the main character who never learned how to read and write. I only glanced at the story but I wish I had read it since it was a fascinating concept. So, yeah, it's definitely doable so long as the reader knows what's going on.


message 22: by J. (new)

J. Quantaman (joquantaman) | 16 comments Mat wrote: "Me too. Especially considering that Shakespeare spelled/spelt his name differently each time he signed it, and made up words and expressions all the time. That's what WE should be doing, as writers..."

Shakespeare also used more contractions than the grammar police would ever allow... English written language is meant to be spoken.


message 23: by Chuck (new)

Chuck | 10 comments In "Letters to Algernon" the author quotes clips from Charlie's diary. He begins as a bad writer, then as he gets smarter he improves. I think too much bad spelling might get annoying for most readers, and you want to minimize the readers you annoy to minimize the bad reviews.


message 24: by C.L. (new)

C.L. Lynch (cllynchauthor) | 316 comments It's certainly been done by many respected authors. Forest Gump is misspelled, as is The Color Purple. Even LM Montgomery did it in Emily of New Moon.

If anything it might add realism. You just need to do it carefully - I would pick a few common words that she routinely misspells and leave the rest alone. If it is random it will look like typos.


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Books mentioned in this topic

A Clockwork Orange (other topics)
Room (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Emma Donoghue (other topics)