His name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but we know him by the name of Mark Twain, an American author, famous not only for his humor but also for his funny colloquial style based on an American cadence. Mark Twain changed the way people thought about writing by replicating ordinary rural speech. In Tom Sawyer Chapter 2, young Tom speaks in what seems like crude language as he tries to convince another boy to paint the fence for him:
“It has to be done very carefully; I think there is not one child in a thousand, maybe two thousand, who can do it the way it should be done.” (twins)
Writing in such an ordinary spoken language is one of the most sophisticated tasks of an author.
If writers want to emulate Mark Twain’s writing style, they must first determine whether they would like to portray characters from Twain’s Mississippi River region or from another English-speaking region. The main point is to capture how people talk casually. Twain’s remarkable writing style was different from other writers of his day because he chose to write the way people in his region spoke of him. However, residents of the UK appreciated his style and invited him there to entertain them.
Capturing natural speech and making it enjoyable is no easy task. Most readers are surprised to discover that writing the way people speak is a more difficult art form than academic writing. To do this, two fundamental questions described in this article must be answered. He or she can then apply four techniques to achieve the goal of using colloquialisms effectively in fiction books.
In the first place, one would have to ask where the protagonists of his novel reside and where they were born.
Although one’s characters may not be based on real people, they should have a personal background, also known as history. The personal story is essential if the writer wishes to represent the natural way of speaking about him. If one would like their characters to sound like Mark Twain’s characters, they could come from the Midwestern state of Missouri or live near the Mississippi River, which runs along the Missouri border (BTW, the Mississippi River runs through ten states in all). If the narrator is not very familiar with the way people speak in that region, it would be better for him to write in a dialect or accent that she knows well. Choosing characters from other parts of the English-speaking world would work just as well and be completely original. For example, one could choose characters from Australia, where people are known for telling outstanding jokes that delight readers, or one could set their characters in New York City.
Second, writers should ask themselves about the educational background of their protagonists.
There are many non-traditional ways to receive education for life, in addition to the traditional school. Perhaps one’s characters got their education on the streets, on the Internet, or through other real-life experiences. Living in a certain neighborhood, being part of a unique family in the theatrical profession or being the daughter of a well-known truck driver are experiences that impact the way of thinking and expressing themselves of the characters. The characters face challenges like homelessness, getting a second chance at life, or falling in love. Such unique and non-traditional characters give readers deep messages that illuminate. Dishonest characters represent how not to behave as well as foolishness. In addition, numerous characters slur their words or use the typical contractions of spoken English.
Once the author has answered those two essential questions (above) regarding the background of the characters, he can proceed to follow four necessary steps:
Step 1 Authors should first become familiar with the vocabulary and jargon of the period in which the characters in their story live, which is easier to do if they are writing about modern times or a period not so distant in the past, given that they have some experience in worldly language. The most successful stories often come from people writing about what they see around them.
While masterful writing about the distant past can be accomplished, it is not easy to write about medieval England while only experiencing modern life in Ohio or California. If one chooses to write about a distant period in the past, one should do some research and, if possible, read some books from that period. A character in America in 1950 might use the word “swell” to describe something he likes, while the same character in 2020 would normally say “cool.”
The following are some words that were commonly used in the 1940s: give me (a woman); a geezer (an elderly person); an anxious beaver (an enthusiastic person); and cheesy (cheap).
Here are some words that were popular in Mark Twain’s day: seek (get something and bring it back); tell (be of opinion); irritable (difficult to treat); seedy (of ill repute); and there (there).
Step 2 It is advisable to read some books or watch some movies set in the period one would like to write about. Take notes with vocabulary that one might use in their story. If the writer finds some words that don’t seem to belong to the period in which the story takes place, they can do some research on the etymology of the words to see when they were first used. Hear about recent terminology being used on television and consider how the language is evolving. For example, many new expressions like “social distancing” and “super spreader” came into use after the COVID-19 crisis.
Step 3 Consider linguistics Check in of the characters in one’s story. Do they use a formal Prayed informal tone? They may speak in an informal tone most of the time while using a formal tone in some situations. The chronological age of the characters also influences their verbal expressions and gestures. An older adult may use some expressions that differ from those of a teenager. A street gang member communicates differently than a college student. Having characters with different linguistic registers meet each other creates a fascinating contrast.
Step 4 Read some fictional Mark Twain books for inspiration. It is said that writers should read many books by the author they wish to emulate. Much can be learned simply by observing an author’s style, and this knowledge of rhythm and tone can be applied to one’s own writing based on the 19th century or other periods. It can inspire science fiction writing in which authors create new words used in a fictional future setting.
As Aunt Polly amusingly says in Tom Sawyer Chapter 4:
“Oh, Tom, you poor idiot, I’m not kidding with you. I wouldn’t do that. You must go and learn it again. Don’t be discouraged, Tom, you’ll make it… and if you do, I’ll give you something very good. There, now That’s a good boy.” (twins)
Polly’s language is not academic jargon. Instead, she exemplifies Polly’s natural rhythm based on everyday speech as she pleads with Tom for her to learn. Her speech is similar to that of old people talking to children, even today. The main element that she must have in a fictional conversation, no matter what period she represents, is a convincing and funny conversation with a pleasant rhythm and tone.