Emulating Mark Twain’s writing style
His name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but we know him by the name of Mark Twain, an American author, famous not only for humor but also for his fun colloquial style based on an American cadence. Mark Twain changed the way people thought about writing by replicating ordinary rural speech. In Tom Sawyer Chapter 2, young Tom speaks in what seems like uneducated language as he tries to convince another boy to paint the fence for him:
“You have to do it very carefully; I think there is not one child in a thousand, maybe two thousand, who can do it the way it should be done.” (Two)
Writing in such an ordinary spoken language is one of the most sophisticated tasks of an author.
If writers want to emulate Mark Twain’s writing style, they must first determine whether they would like to portray characters from the Mississippi River region of Twain or another English-speaking region. The main point is to capture how people talk informally. Twain’s remarkable writing style was different from other writers of his day because he chose to write as the people of his region spoke. However, UK residents appreciated his style and invited him there to entertain them.
Capturing natural speech and making it enjoyable is not an easy task. Most readers are surprised to find that writing the way people speak is a more difficult art form than academic writing. To do this, you have to answer two fundamental questions that are described in this article. Then you can apply four techniques to achieve the goal of using colloquialisms effectively in fiction books.
In the first place, it is worth wondering where the protagonists of his novel reside and where they were born.
Although one’s characters may not be based on real people, they must have a personal background, also known as a story. Personal history is essential if the writer wishes to represent his natural way of speaking. If you wanted your characters to sound like Mark Twain’s, they could come from the Midwestern state of Missouri or live near the Mississippi River, which runs along the Missouri border (by the way, the Mississippi River runs through ten states in total). . If the narrator is not very familiar with how people speak in that region, it would be better to write in a dialect or accent that he knows well. Choosing characters from other parts of the English-speaking world would work just as well and be completely original. For example, one could choose characters from Australia, where people are known for telling outstanding jokes that delight readers, or one could place their characters in New York City.
Second, writers must ask themselves about the academic training of their protagonists.
There are many non-traditional ways to receive life education in addition to the traditional school. Perhaps your characters were brought up on the streets, on the Internet, or through other real-life experiences. Living in a particular neighborhood, being part of a unique family in the theater profession, or being the daughter of a well-known trucker are all experiences that impact the way characters think and express themselves. Characters face challenges such as homelessness, having a second chance at life, or falling in love. These unique and non-traditional characters give readers insightful messages that illuminate. Dishonest characters describe how not to behave as well as foolishness. In addition, many characters draw words or use the typical contractions of spoken English.
Once the author has answered those two essential questions (mentioned above) related to the characters’ backgrounds, you can proceed with the four necessary steps:
Step 1 Authors should first become familiar with the vocabulary and jargon of the period in which the characters in their story live, which is easier to achieve if they write about modern times or a period not so far in the past, given that they have some experience in worldly language. Usually, the most successful stories emerge when people write about what they observe around them.
Although masterful writing about the distant past can be accomplished, it is not easy to write about medieval England while modern life has only been experienced in Ohio or California. If one chooses to write about a distant period in the past, one will have to do a little research and, if possible, read a few books from that period. A character in America in 1950 might use the word “swell” to describe something he likes, while the same character in 2020 usually says “great.”
The following are some words that were commonly used in the 1940s: give me (a woman); an old man (an older person); an eager beaver (an enthusiastic person); and cheesy (cheap).
Here are some words that were popular in Mark Twain’s time: seek (get something and bring it back); take into account (be of opinion); intractable (difficult to treat); shabby (with a bad reputation); and there (there).
Step 2 It is advisable to read some books or watch some movies that are set in the period one would like to write about. Take notes with vocabulary that you could use in your story. If the writer finds some words that do not seem to belong to the period in which the story takes place, he can do some research on the etymology of the words to see when they began to be used. Listen to the recent terminology used on television and consider how the language evolves. For example, many new expressions like “social distancing” and “super differentiator” came into use after the COVID-19 crisis.
Step 3 Consider the linguistic Check in of the characters of the story itself. Do you use a formal gold informal tone? They may speak in an informal tone most of the time while using a formal tone in some situations. The chronological age of the characters also influences their verbal expressions and gestures. An older adult may use some expressions that differ from those of a teenager. A member of a street gang communicates differently than a college student. Having characters with different linguistic registers meeting each other creates a fascinating contrast.
Step 4 Read some fictional Mark Twain books for inspiration. Writers are said to have to read many books by the author they wish to emulate. There is much that one can learn simply by observing an author’s style, and this knowledge of rhythm and tone can be applied to his writing based on the 19th century or other periods. It can inspire science fiction writing in which authors create new words used in a fictional future setting.
As Aunt Polly hilariously says in Tom Sawyer Chapter 4:
“Oh, Tom, you poor fool, I’m not kidding you.” I would not do that. You must go and learn it again. Don’t be discouraged, Tom, you will succeed … and if you do, I will give you something very nice. Well that’s a good boy. “(Two)
Polly’s language is not academic jargon. Instead, she exemplifies Polly’s natural rhythm based on everyday speech as she begs Tom to learn. His speech is similar to that of the elderly who speak to children, even today. The main element a fictional conversation should have, no matter what period it represents, is engaging and fun conversation with delightful rhythm and tone.