Thursday, December 9, 2010

Craft: Like Rain on Your Wedding Day

Way back when Alanis Morrisette wrote a song called Ironic which highlighted her complete misunderstanding of the word.

It's like a black fly in your chardonnay

No that's not ironic Alanis, that's gross. A hint to stop drinking perhaps.

A death row pardon one minute too late.

More like effing tragic, that one.

Like rain on your wedding day.

Nope. That's just plain old bad luck.... or perhaps a portent of dark days to come, mmwwhaaa.

Meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife.

That's a therapy session waiting to happen.

Apparently, ironic is one of the most misused words in the English language. An ironic remark conveys a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. So, in an ironic statement one thing is said, while another thing is meant. For example, if you were trying to be ironic on a stormy, dreary day, you might say: “What glorious weather!”.

This to me sounded like sarcasm, but apparently there's a distinction. With sarcasm there is a stronger intent to ridicule or mock, often harshly or crudely. For instance if someone does something really silly you might say "That's using your noggin'" because the fact they weren't using their noggin is so obvious, and that's a more personal statement, designed to ridicule. But is it ridicule if you say it with a smile I wonder? If you know the person so well they give as good as they get? Aussies tend to be this way with each other, we call it razzing a mate. My characters, especially my male ones, do it all the time because that's how I've observed Australian men interacting with each other. So are we all sarcastic, ironic or are we just plain mean?

My husband has a saying he uses in reference to me. He says "Sarcasm is your default setting." But I'm now not so sure. I don't say things to be harsh or mean or ridicule people. I do tease, I do razz and make jolly fun of friends, but I expect the same back. I do often say the opposite of what is clearly the truth sometimes because I think it's a bit funny. If someone at work was reemed out by the office bitch, for example, I might say something like, "So Jane's in a pleasant mood today?" Apparently that's not sarcasm, but irony. Jane's not there to be ridiculed. I don't think it's such a harsh thing to say considering the alternatives. Like, "Jane's a psychotic cow in serious need of medication." or "Bloody hell I hate Jane!"

So on second thought I don't think I'm as sarcastic as I first thought, because my intent is not to mock anyone, but to lighten the moment. To make people feel better if anything. I may not always succeed at this but that is my intent.

Next time someone tries to fling an insult my way I could just say "No actually, I'm an ironic bitch, thank you very much."

And a pedantic one :).


Monday, December 6, 2010

Character Sketch Competition Finished

Thank you Robhap for entering my competition. It was inspired by a book called “Australian Life: Black and White” by Rosa Praed. I was reading it as research for my own Irish Australian Colonial written at the same time as Rosa was writing about her experiences in Australia. Below are some of her character sketches which I loved:

"There are two kinds of drover, the rough, frank, ready-handed colonial, whose mental horizon is in ordinary life bounded by the stockyard fence, while the wildest flight of imagination never lands him beyond Sydney or Melbourne; and the English gentleman who has come down in the world, through drink or misfortune, and who shuns head stations, the society of ladies, and anything that calls back old associations."

"Of the former class, Duncan Campbell was a good specimen. He was long and scraggy, with arms and legs like the sails of a windmill, and a high Roman nose which he had a trick of polishing with his thumb and forefinger till it shone again. He always dressed in a Crimean shirt and riding breeches, and wore—at dinner only—an alpaca coat hastily donned and quickly doffed when the time came for tobacco and grog in the verandah. His voice blended oddly the native drawl and an hereditary Scotch accent."

"He was tall and melancholy-looking, with refined features, large dark eyes, a silky beard, and consumptive stoop. He wore a very old grey coat with half the buttons off, dragged over the chest in a suggestive manner as if to hide deficiencies."

"There came, too, another neighbour, a young lordling, a free selector on the river, the introducer of polo into the district, and of prize pigs and art pottery as features of bush life. He was variously addressed as “Your Lordship, Lord Barty, and Mr. Lord Barty,” professed to be a thorough-going radical and utilitarian, but was in reality as deeply imbued with caste prejudices as any stripling aristocrat could be."

And last, but by no means least…

"Jennie Marsden was a sweet little creature with big shy eyes, and dark curling hair. She had a keen sense of the ludicrous, and a fund of dry humour of which no one ever suspected her."

Great writing – at least in my opinion. I can see these characters so well. These little sketches are perfect for those secondary characters who come and go in the book.

Send me an email Rob to collect your prize and, for those who didn't enter a reminder - it's a book about the Art of Verbal Seduction... Just the ticket for a romance writer I think!

Zoe Y