When friends and acquaintances find out I’m a writer, a few of them want to pick my brain about something they’ve either written or want to write. For the most part, I don’t mind. I mean, after all, everyone starts somewhere and a few of the lucky ones end up on a bestseller’s list.
A few months back an acquaintance from school sent a manuscript she’d written to a group of our former classmates. She asked everyone to take a month or two to read it. I took her literally at her word and read it on the last day of Month Number Two.
The problem with critiquing anything is: opinions are subjective. Others may love what I dislike. One thing I don’t like is pretentiousness – in person or on paper. In my neck of the woods, highfalutin flying pigs are shot and roasted – metaphorically, of course.
This manuscript was a challenge. Every fifth or sixth paragraph was written in Babelfish German. I know Latin (though, as the years go by, I remember less and less) and can vaguely translate a smattering in other languages, but this was migraine-inducing.
Here’s an example of what I faced: “Der Esel fliegt schnell Fett Himmel. Wer kratzt mein Zeh-Saft? Das Gestein beißen das Brot.”
Which loosely translates to: “The Donkey flies fast Fat Sky. You scratch my Toe-Juice? The Rock bit the Bread.”
The German words she used added nothing to the story except irritation. It was simply a play to get noticed – until someone who actually speaks German starts translating.
I have used foreign words in my stories but I limit myself to the easily recognized. The French words c’est la vie, au revoir and bonjour are familiar to American readers. The Spanish compadre is used down here more often than friend – and that’s kind of weird since this region is full of Cajun-French influence.
I draw the line when I feel myself trying to impress with my limited foreign language knowledge although I was rather impressive when my kids were younger. Sadly, they’ve caught on to Mom making up her own foreign words to sound smart. They speak French and Russian, so they are way out of my league now and I’ve stopped trying to bluff my way past them.
How to tell a fledgling writer I would not buy their book if I need an English/German dictionary at my fingertips? It’s not easy when someone is dressed to the nines and you have to tell them their underwear is showing.
Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch