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🗣️ Inneresting #164 - Collective Voice
The shared bits where a character's personal voice overlaps with a close-knit group.
We expect characters to have a unique voice. Speech patterns and quirks of tone and grammar that help to define who they are as an individual for both the actor and the audience. But groups can also share common elements in the way they talk that help express their bond to the audience.
Kathryn Hymes describes the concept of “familect,” or when a close-knit group develops their own inside jokes and personal memes:
Familects help us feel like family. Private in-group language fosters intimacy and establishes identity. In a study on the use of idiosyncratic terms among couples, researchers found that personal language nurtures a feeling of closeness and often appears in attempts for connection or reconciliation. When people use familect terms, they reinforce the stories, rituals, and memories that hold them together as a group. “Every time they use that phrase, they are pointing to all the previous uses of it,” Gordon said. “It reaffirms their ‘familyness’ in a way. It re-creates their relationship.”
Taking this to an extreme, consider the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok,” where the Children of Tama speak entirely in idioms and allegory. Ian Bogost gives a detailed breakdown of the episode, and the way it offers a deeper look into the nature of figurative language and the relationship between an insular group’s reference points and how it integrates an outsider.
Matthew Olson looks at creating idioms like these as a part of world building for fantasy and science-fiction, with plenty of examples. You can even go outside the human perspective—Karen Bakker covers the evolving understanding of how honeybees communicate, and how these “dance moves” vary from hive to hive.
Sometimes a job comes with jargon and acronyms a person needs to learn in order to keep up with the conversation:
Ben Brody gathers a glossary of US military lingo, from Big Voice to Woobie.
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WGA Strike Update
As the strike continues, the best way to participate and support the effort to create a fair contract is still to find a way to get involved!
Get your words on the page!
Each week we post a comment thread for writers to meet up, cheer each other on, and put some words on the page with a Write Sprint.
What’s a Write Sprint?
John wrote up an explanation, but here’s the short version: Set a timer for 60 minutes, close down all distractions, and do nothing but write until that timer goes off.
A sprint like that is a great opportunity to try new things, even if you delete them later! Give yourself the space to see what happens on the page right now instead of worrying about what it needs to look like when it’s finally polished.
Shout out to last week’s Sprinters Beth Barany, Mark Leiren-Young, Elyse Moretti Forbes, and Brian Matusz!
Previously on Inneresting…
In case you missed it, in last issue’s most clicked link we learned rainbows are actually full circles.
What else is inneresting?
A look back at Ghostwatch, a faux live investigation of a poltergeist that used actual BBC news personalities and caused some actual terror.
Manuela Lazic highlights how studios use influencers for film marketing, and how critical voices are muting themselves to maintain relationships.
Jessica Winter on the relationship between Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Todd Haynes’s Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, an unauthorized biopic staged with Barbie dolls as the actors:
Superstar begins as a droll prank and then tilts, almost imperceptibly, into surreal domestic nightmare and, finally, authentic tragedy.
Reading the room
And that’s what’s inneresting this week!
Inneresting is edited by Chris Csont, with contributions from readers like you and the entire Quote-Unquote team.
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