This chapter marks the beginning of some massive rewrites I did after the first draft. Originally, I summarized pretty much all of Buttersby’s break down at Ranchero Diamante. I basically just told the readers that Buttersby had a hard time of it, and that she came to feel like she was of no worth. However, when my writing group read that, they didn’t buy it. It’s my experience that whenever a writer tells you something instead of showing it, I’m naturally skeptical. So I can be told that two characters are in love, but that better not be a major plot point, or else I won’t believe it. Then again, if the author shows the two characters interacting and comes to the conclusion that the two are in love, then the author can do a lot more with that same relationship. It all depends on where the conclusion comes from. Does that make sense?
So in this section, it was one thing to say, “Buttersby thought she was worthless.” But since a large part of the point of this book was illustrating how Buttersby changed and came to realize the value of being less prideful and self-centered, when the time came for Buttersby to be changed, no one bought it, because they had only been told Buttersby had a breakdown. They didn’t see it, so to them, it was as if she hadn’t had one. Hence, I needed to show some of the things that happened to Buttersby to change her. Since I didn’t want to have a series of Buttersby-has-it-rough episodes, I chose to give one sample of what happened to her. I was quite pleased with how it turned out.
One other element I wanted to discuss here was the “blahs,” or the way I tried to convey how Buttersby heard a different language. Really, I saw three approaches to this. On the one hand, I could make Tralpacish mirror Spanish, and put in some words in Spanish here that Buttersby wouldn’t understand. My second option was to invent a new language and use that for Tralpacish. This might have been diverting, and I probably could have done it with my linguistic background, but I frankly didn’t want to devote the amount of effort it would have taken. This is a fun, light book–not Lord of the Rings. (I guess there’s another option close to this one–just make up some gibberish and throw it in, but I could never do that. It would be cheating.) The third choice was to just have Buttersby not understand what was being said. Having listened to my fair share of foreign languages, I know that often you don’t even have any clue even where one word ends and another begins, especially if you have no training in the language. So this third option seemed the best, since the story is from Buttersby’s point of view. I’ve always loved the teacher’s voice on the animated Charlie Brown specials. “Wha wha wha wha wha wha whaa.” When I was teaching freshman composition, one of my students was trying to convey a different language, and I suggested he use “blahs” to fill in for it. It worked wonderfully there, and I was happy to be able to do the same thing here. I don’t know what everyone else thinks about it, but I liked it.
Anyway–that’s all I have for you this week. As always, if you have questions or comments, please email me, and I’ll be more than happy to answer them.