In my last post I introduced the concept of language shorthand’s within a culture or between a few people. These shorthand’s can and do develop in families.
In my own family, we’ve developed this type of shorthand. You can easily get my kids laughing by saying “three sneezes”, “cheat, cheat”, “now which one are you” or “nobody has shoes on”.
Come to my house sometime and listen to us discuss a dinner menu or shopping list and try to figure out what “death, poison and pain” are. Death we make efforts to at least limit in our house and keep it away from my youngest daughter. Pain we don’t limit, but do keep away from my two daughters (the two living at home). Poison is not only encouraged, but my youngest son will complain about me making him eat it every day (he’s the one who started calling them poison). I’ll gripe that the list of death and pain is growing.
In one of my stories I have an MC convey a whole story to his brother by saying the name of one of their deceased relatives. It quickly got his point across to his brother, then he had to explain himself to everyone else in the room. But the fact is, as family members, they could express a full story with just a name is believable. The scene wouldn’t have been believable if the MC had to tell the whole story to his brother, who already knew it.
At another point in that same story the mother of one of my characters told her, “Don’t pull an Andrea.”
This was referring to the young woman’s sister, but she got the point. Her sister was known for dawdling.
Do we as writers create believable family dynamics with family members who have a shorthand? Do they say things that sound off the wall but make perfect sense to the family members, while being confusing to anybody else? Can your characters convey stories to each other with just a word or two, or a name?
This dynamic doesn’t have to apply to just families, but can also fit people who’ve been around each other a lot, or grown up together.
In the story I mentioned above, I have a scene where the introduction of a simple food item has two characters, who grew up together laughing. Their community’s shared shorthand. A familiar story they both knew that was funny to them. The people in the room with them had to be told what was funny.
Read through your stories and find out where you can use this shorthand.
In the first scene I mentioned, had the MC told his brother what the problem was by telling the story of their deceased relative, the scene would have been completely different, and they would have trooped out of the room faster than I needed them too. However, normal family dynamics got him to relay the story twice, once quickly to his brother, then a second time, in longer format, to everyone else.
In the second scene I mentioned, I can remember the long sentence I had were the mother was telling her not to dawdle, then it occurred to me, the line about not pulling an Andrea was shorter, got the point across, and was consistent with normal family dynamics.
Read through your stories and see if the dynamic is there. Do they have that shorthand? If not can you create one for them.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.