Friday, December 13, 2013
The Rules of Writing-Parts of Speech-Interjection 3
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: June 08, 2013
For writers, what’s in an interjection?
Interjections are dialogue devices to transmit the emotion of the speaker or narrator. For fiction writers, creating realistic dialogue is one of the most difficult aspects of the craft. Interjections, if used with care, can convey natural-sounding lines.
Let’s try a silly game. In a room, we have a group of males waiting for the bride: the groom, a teenager, a grandfather, a young brother, and the father. We have lines of dialogue but we forgot to append their attributes. Can you tell who said what?
“You look nice.”
“Hey, you look nice.”
“Wow! You look nice!”
“Mmm… you look nice.”
“Er, you look, hum, nice.”
“You look nice.” Is dry, sober and serious; it could be the grandfather.
“Hey, you look nice.” This is a little more zesty, but restrained, no exclamation marks; it could be the father.
“Wow! You look nice!” Enthusiastic. Perhaps the young brother?
“Mmm… you look nice.” The filled pause points at the groom. Yet, one of the writers of this manual pointed out that if anyone but the groom had said “Mmm” it would make for an interesting story. Go figure.
“Er, you look, hum, nice.” Finally, this sentence ripe with filled pauses could belong to the teenager.
These interjections add realism to prose because we often use them in our conversations. But like every device in fiction writing, using interjections for effect or characterization wants careful dosing. This implies limiting their use to specific situations or the mannerisms of individual characters. Excessive use of interjections in writing is a flaw that signals stylistic immaturity.
Either a comma or an exclamation mark can punctuate an interjection. This opens possibilities to “grade” the emphasis of a sentence. For a mild effect, use a comma, and an exclamation mark for a stronger show of surprise, emotion, or deep feeling. Another exclamation mark on the following sentence will increase the effect.
“Hey, that horse is huge.”
“Hey! That horse is huge.”
“Hey! That horse is huge!”
In the previous examples, the first is declarative, lifeless. It doesn’t convey anything beyond the information contained in the words “horse” and “huge.”
The second example adds a tone of excitement and in the third the agitation multiplies.
Another form of interjection, also useful for adding realism to dialogue, is the filled pause. Filled pauses are seldom “real” words, but onomatopoeias we introduce in our speech patterns when unsure, nervous, searching for the right word, or pausing. Examples of filled pauses are: um, mmm, hmm, er, uh, etc.
In fiction writing, the filled pause can convey character traits and emotions, awkwardness, impatience, doubt, nervousness, and lies.
“Er, um, Dad, I, er, was wondering if, uh, you would, um, lend me your, er, car…”
“Um, Dad… please?”
“Forget it. Are you crazy? What do you want the car for?”
“Uh, well, you see….”
“No, I don’t.”
“Um, I have a, uh, date.”
“A date? Zoinks! Why didn’t you say so? Come here, son. Sit down and tell me about it. You’ll need money. Here. A date you said? Someone we know?”
Context and the acceptable language conventions by the characters in the given scenes or settings are important before applying any literary devices.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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