Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 41 comments
Thanks to Roni of Fiction Groupie for hosting today's Let's Talk Blogfest. Stop on by her site to see the listing of all participants.

My offering for today's fest is from WIP-2, Clearing, a sequel to my first YA book. I've had three people help me with the few snippets of French and deeply empathize with my protagonist's sentiments about learning the language.

Context here...Dani, 17, and her mother are about to head to Paris in a few days. She's studying for finals with her boyfriend (and sometimes French tutor) Theo. Earlier in this chapter, Dani learned of possible complications to the trip while he was asleep and her mother was out.

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I reach for Theo’s shoulder, give him a little shake. Then a harder one. “Thebes?”

He lifts his heavy head off of me. His hazel eyes flutter open, more gold than green in the afternoon light. He groans. “Oh, Dani, I did it again, didn’t I? Jeez, I’m sorry. I’m just so tired all the time. Maybe I need to start drinking coffee like you do.”

I smile. “It would stunt your growth.”

“Little late for that, don’t you think?” He leans back, stretching, and his firm stomach peeks between his shirt hem and the waistband of his khakis. I look away, sit on my hands again before my hormones get the better of me.

“Mum wants to know if you can stay for supper.”

“Yeah?” he says, poking me in the ribs. “What about you?” Poke. “Do you want me?” Poke, poke, poke. “To stay?”

“Not if you’re gonna be a bully!”

Moi?” He strikes a Miss Piggy pose.

Non, ta jument méchante, qui ronfle comme un os endormi.”

Theo roars with laughter. “My evil what? Mare? Who snores like a sleepy bone?”

“I meant twin. Ju-something…else.”

“Ah. Jumeau, ma chérie. Jumeau méchant. Evil twin. And I do not snore. Especially not like a bone.”

I roll my eyes. “Bear. I wanted to say bear.”

Ours, not os. Bien? Dis-le et répète, Danielle.”

Say it and repeat. Oh, brother.

I tip my head side to side as I chant, “Ours, ours, ours, ours, ours. Happy?”

“Cheer up, babe, you’ve improved a lot. Your grammar’s quite good. You used the feminine adjective with jument, which was great, even if it wasn’t the noun you wanted.”

“I’m never gonna get this. Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.”

“You are getting it. Can’t you see that? You’ve picked up in six months what it took me three years to learn. Of course, I didn’t have a patient instructor completely dedicated to my success.”

“Come on, Thebes. You’ve got to be bored out of your mind teaching a dunce like me.”

“Dunce? Hardly. You are way too hard on yourself. So you made a mistake. Big deal. Who doesn’t? Heck, I’m learning here, too. Remember the flashcard fiasco?”

“I’d rather not.” Theo pounding the wall, purple-faced; me curled up in fetal position—not a scene I care to replay. Ever.

“Well, me neither. That was totally my bad. But I learned from it, right? I’ve had quite the adventure developing my cutting-edge teaching techniques.”

I snort.

“Yeah? You doubt me? I’m deeply insulted.”

“What’s so cutting edge about, ‘Dis-le et répète’?”

“How do you think you learned to draw, Dani? Practice. Lots of it. Years of filling sketch pad after sketch pad until your scribbles became shapes became art. Anyone who thinks they can get some new skill without practice is an idiot. So, ma chérie, after we get through tomorrow’s finals and my last regatta, we will répéter, en français all day, every day, until you go. Très bien?”

Mum strides into the living room, clenching the phone. I can almost smell the fury pulsing out of her, like fumes from a hot engine.

Pas bien. Mal. Très, très mal.

“There’s been a change of plans,” she says.

41 comments:

  1. I totally loved the line "Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.”

    This was great! I love the easy banter. Very well done. Magnifique!

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  2. I also loved the line "Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for the crimes against the mother tongue." Fantastic. I love your description too. Everything flows quite nicely.
    Great job!

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  3. This was great Laurel. nice flowing dialogue, but I still can't speak French. ;)

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  4. I agree. This flows nicely and the scene shows the sweet connection of Theo and Dani. The voice is excellent. I really like "sit on hands again before my hormones get the better of me again."

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  5. Loved this even more the second time around! I was thinking after reading your story yesterday and as I prepared my blogfest entry, how funny it was that we'd used the same name (Dani). I didn't know your story was a blogfest entry for today, or I would have changed my character's name!

    Your writing is wonderful -- great scene!

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  6. Yes, I liked the "hormones" line too. And the way you interspersed French and English. I know just enough French to agree that ce n'est pas bienwhen Mum is pulsing with hot fury, and am wondering what happens next...

    P.S. I see from your profile you're in Philly. I'm just across the river, in NJ, and used to work at Penn.

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  7. Great character building through the banter, here.

    Oh no! Change of plans? You must share that scene some time...pretty please :)

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  8. i absolutely LOVED the part where his stomach peeked out and she had to sit on her hands. That little bit, and the part where he was poking her, really hooked me in.
    Great job!

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  9. Nice scene! I know a bit of French but it was still lost on me!! You do a good job of explaining what was said afterward though!

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  10. Loved the back and forth between these two. Great scene! :)

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  11. Fabulous Laurel! Parisians bludgeoning with baguettes is brilliant :) I loved the whole thing, great job :)

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  12. This was an excellent conversation to read. You write beautifully. I also liked the sentence, "Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.”

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  13. Love this! It felt natural, and the French gave it a little flavor. Nice job!

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  14. Well, now....I just love Theo and this wonderful dialogue between them. You've done a great job of showing us his playfulness and confidence along side her anxiety. And Mom's appearance at the end is a perfect hook.

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  15. You interspersed English and French so effortlessly, it made for smooth, eloquent reading. (Hugs)Indigo

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  16. I still enjoy the back-and-forth between Dani and Theo in this scene, even the second time reading it. The screwing up the French bit is a lovely little opportunity for humor, and the "bludgeon me with baguettes" line is great!

    And, as always, I love the way you end your chapters with tension. Well done!

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  17. "Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.” AWESOME line!

    I really enjoyed this, Laurel.

    Left us hanging. ;)

    Love,
    Lola

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  18. Dialogue flows faultlessly. The French threw me a bit, but probably because I've been vainly trying to learn the language for the last decade. Well done and great hook at the end.

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  19. Loved the banter to between your characters. ANd I'm with the others, love the line:
    “I’m never gonna get this. Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.”

    Totally made me lol. Great job!

    Thanks for participating!

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  20. Awesome! Great dialogue, and I love the way you get the gist across to non-french speakers (like me), without making it sound forced or "telly."

    ~Lia

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  21. Delightful! Both characters are fully realized, even just with their dialogue. You definitely have a style to your work and pace that made me stand up and take notice. I'm almost dying to see what happens next.

    And, like others before me, the line "Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.” left me in stitches.

    Loved it.

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  22. This is so good! I love the French phrases in there -- I only have two years of French under my belt, but it looked right to me. The characters are really likable too, I got a good sense of their personalities. Nicely written!

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  23. Agree -- the baguettes line was fierce! I love this. Love this. Love this. You are such an amazing writer. I can't wait until I get to say I "knew" you when!

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  24. I also loved the baguettes line! Great job!

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  25. I'm liking the message about practicing to get it right.

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  26. You have a nice voice - love the tone and the flow :)

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  27. As a hopelessly monolingual person, I too enjoyed the fact that you were able to sprinkle in so much French without having to exclude anyone.

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  28. I don't speak French, but I thought the dialogue was spot-on! Enjoyed the playful banter. Happy writing!

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  29. Ah, mixing English and French. I need to take some lessons here. I'm trying for the first time to mix languages and it is ugh-lee.

    And I don't like writing ugly.

    I like how you translated without being explicit. I'll have to do something similar on mine.

    Excellent post.

    - Eric

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  30. Ooh...what's mum so mad about? Sounds like an exciting twist is coming up!

    Your dialogue is excellent, I really like these two, and I love her language mistakes. Very funny!

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  31. I love the dynamics between these two characters! And I feel for you, sincerely, with the French-- a solid third of one of my books takes place in France with a very French family. I ended up getting a phrase book, but you have done an AMAZING job here, from the looks of it! I only wish I did half as well with my own :)

    The dialogue is great and the scene is awesome. I love when he roars with laughter at her mistake the most :)

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  32. I loved this exchange between Danielle and Theo - totally realistic!

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  33. Maybe I'd like French a lot more if I had had a cute boy teacher like Theo! Love how she calls him Thebes. Love how you build backstory and characterization with the reference to his pounding the wall and her curled in a fetal position. Loved the dramatic entrance at the end.

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  34. Loved the back and forth banter between the two characters. You've got it down well. I got such a great vibe off the two of them that I found myself caring for them even though I only read a snippet!

    Great job.

    Oh, and I loved the smattering of French.

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  35. Thank you all so much, followers and new visitors for making this fest so awesome!
    With over 100 other entries to read (I only got through forty-some yesterday) I can't respond individually like I usually do.

    As you might guess, I was testing out this piece to see if English speakers could follow it. A HUGE danke schön to Nicole for giving my Franzözisch one last dusting down!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the humor and characterization. I'll be back to drafting the rest of this book soon and your kind words have rekindled my enthusiasm for the task. Thank you all!

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  36. What a fun interchange! I speak French (not as good as I used to) but I think your mess up with bone and bear is spot on. Great job.

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  37. Fun scene, good banter. I liked how you let the dialogue do the work with only a few choice descriptions. And I was wondering if something was wrong with MY French until I realized it was intentionally wrong. :-P

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  38. This was totally engaging, and I enjoyed the chance to practice my French reading comprehension skills. I know everyone already said this, but I am also a fan of the line "Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue". ;)

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  39. “Yeah?” he says, poking me in the ribs. “What about you?” Poke. “Do you want me?” Poke, poke, poke. “To stay?” <--- I belly laughed. The four walls surrounding me may have shook as well. I loved this. Tres bien.

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  40. Hi again! I left you an award on my blog today!!

    ((hugs)) Nicole

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