How Netball relates to Writing

September 10, 2009 at 11:46 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Okay so netball doesn’t have a lot to do with writing. Somehow when I realised it was my day to blog my mind went blank and it was only half way through a netball game when I remembered what I was going to write about.  (Just in case you were wondering, we lost, utterly annihilated but anyway)

Basically I want to talk about the universality of brands.  I think this particularly effects writers who are not from the US, as let’s face it, enough American television has filtered through that we know most of the US terminology that once would have had us going ‘uh what??’  There are certain brands, slang and terminology that are not universal and can confuse the reader as they try and understand the context of a word.

Netball isn’t a universal sport.  If I wanted to make a scene where there was a netball game, I would have to explain some of the rules and terms of the game.  If I said for instance that the Goal keeper hurled the ball to the shooter, those not In the know wouldn’t really have any idea why that’s against the rules.  Okay so obviously in most situations you’re context is going to make things pretty clear but there are times, especially when slang is involved when context doesn’t help the situation at all.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take the references out of the story, but you have to make sure you explain them if you plan on trying to sell worldwide rights. (I know I’m thinking ahead, but fix the problems early to save you a lot of hassle at the end.)  It’s all about what jars a reader, maybe that bit of terminology is crucial to your character and as such I can’t force you to take it out but remember you want the read to be smooth, will it stop people from reading your book entirely.  I doubt it, but I think it is something worth considering never the less.

I’ll give you a few examples, (Okay when I say a few I mean one)

We sat down in the provided chairs, you know, the ones that have never been washed and you’re sure you’ll catch something just by sitting on them.  But I was being supportive, that’s what a girlfriend did, or so I’d been told.  I should have been home, I had to prepare, the TEE was no easy thing, it took months of preparation and I was here at Subiaco waiting for Justin to return after making the biggest decision he would have to make this year; Emu or VB, always the dramatic one. I just hoped he came back with change.

So if you’re Australian most of you are going to instantly know what the italicised words are.  If you’re not you could probably guess, although I tried to remove as much subtext as possible to stress the point.  I guess my point is just remember to sit in your reader’s shoes. Will they understand some of the local dialect automatically?  Do you have to cue it with enough subtext that they will understand?  Or should you make it a universal brand name?  It’s up to you. 

As I said it’s not a massive problem, most of us do this already, but it’s a little thing that I’ve picked up in a few of my Beta reads, so certainly food for thought.

So as always I’m asking for thoughts.  Have you ever read a reference and not understood it?  Does it really jar you?  Are you one of those people who go google the word or are quite happy to skip it and move on?


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