Writing Practice and Meeting up with your MUSE
Writing Leap #56
My sister, Laurie, and I were laughing recently and reminiscing about our late mother’s wonderful farm town expressions. They were part of her even after many years of living outside a big city. Mary Magriel was a country girl from upstate New York and her turns of phrase revealed so much about her nature, her background, her era and what tickled her.
What about giving your characters expressions that express their personalities, perhaps their biases or fears. Particular turns of phrase, either unique to your character or not, is one way to give readers a gateway into your character’s make-up and your fictional world.
So writers, listen to your characters! How do they express themselves? They may be telling you a lot.
Mary Magriel’s Expressions: What they reveal about her.
Some of these are doozies. Her word. Thank you to my sister for remembering so many and for enjoying them together all over again.
“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
Our mother would persist until she figured out a solution. Nothing was too much for her. Fitting things in a tiny closet, dashing her famous tomato seedlings over to a friend right before it was time to prepare dinner.
“I like to trade at the local butcher.”
Does anybody today say, “trade at the “A &P?” No! Trade is a farm town term from an era gone by. I would think it came from the fact that farmers traded their crops for goods. Our mother “traded” with a sharp eye for quality.
“My heart is klopping.”
As in beating hard. She either made this up or it was some version of a Yiddish word. Our mother, a Protestant, adored Jewish expressions. Maybe it was an expression of her love for our father who was Jewish and who loved to joke around with old Yiddish sayings. She would laugh and laugh, pleasing our father no end.
“Slower than molasses in January.” This just sounds really small town.
“Your father took us all the way around Robinson’s barn.”
There was no Robinson’s barn. It was how she expressed getting lost. Barns evoke rural environments and that’s where she grew up.
I wish my sister and I could remember more. Her farm town-isms bring her back.
Happy Writing! May you create many perfect expressions for your characters.
LINKING THE ARTS
A Wonderful Book
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley: An authentic rural voice and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992
A Funny Word
Hayseed, as in country boy. Slightly insulting. My father occasionally teased my mother about her high school boyfriend. “Only a hayseed like Tommy would say, ‘No matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney,'” my father kidded.
Red Barn by Esther Marie Versch