Wednesday, November 3, 2010

White Noise

Webster defines white noise as: noun-acoustical or electrical noise in which the intensity is the same at all frequencies within a given band.


Most people, like yours truly, defines white noise as any kind of sound that is soothing to the ears, relaxing to the soul, or to state it more accurately, a sound that becomes so ingrained in our day-to-day activities that when we don't hear it, we often find that our day-to-day activities are somehow incomplete.

Now I'm sure you're asking the computer screen, "G, what does this have to do with writing?"

And I'm sure that you'll be wanting an answer to that burning-without-a-flame question.

And you know darn well that if I don't answer that question then this post will come to a screeching halt and I'll be forced to write on the fly about my first self-pubbed work, and I don't want to write on the fly because I suck at writing on the fly.

Anywho, I've had a lot of white noise during my day-to-day activities and up until very recently, none has made it into my writings. Until I came aboard for my second stint of state employment after being laid off in 2003, the main irritant that my white noise contained, was emergency sirens. Between the heavy dose at home (lived within a one mile radius of the highway, firehouse, two homeless shelters, three bars and a sleazy motel) and at work (hospital), the sirens quickly turned into a very tasteless running joke:

"Listen, must be a dead body run!"

That all changed once I returned to full time employment in 2004.

2004 is when I first heard Spanish being spoken in an office environment. I've always heard Spanish before, back when I used to work in retail, but I never heard on the scale that I encountered at the particular agency I was residing in (Corrections).

While I may have gotten my first taste of it there, it really came at me full bore once I transferred to my current place of residence (Children & Families). Working in such an environment where more than half of the office staff were bilingual, in no time at all Spanish became my white noise.

My white noise became such an integral part of my work environment that on the days when certain staff members were at other offices, I actually became a little disoriented. Really. It's like going through a bad withdrawal, only instead of food or drugs, it's Spanish.

Because of the pervasiveness of Spanish in my day-to-day work activities, it was inevitable that it would bleed into other aspects of my life.

Like writing.

I've toyed with the idea of adding this particular element to my stories for quite sometime, but up until now, the problem was how to add it to a story without having the story being compromised or the addition misconstrued, or worse, completely losing the reader and/or writer (yes, I used it in a short story called "Saturday" and I didn't keep the original sentences that were translated, thus severely screwing up the story).

With my latest writing project, "Dandelion Tears", I believe I found the perfect story to add Spanish into the mix without compromising the integrity of the story. Because the story has such a heavy fantasy element to begin with, I felt that having one of my main characters speaking Spanish would compliment the overall flavor of the story. I also felt that Spanish was a language that should always be associated with power and strength, which was always the underlying reason as to why I never really used it in my previous stories.

Two significant problems immediately arose from this particular decision: how to write it and how to format it. Formatting was the easy part, once I figured through trial and error that it was a lot less confusing (at least for me looking at it from a reader's point of view) to have both the Spanish version of the dialogue and the English version (italicized) of the dialogue standing next to each other.

Writing was the difficult part, which I was able to solve by using a good translation tool put out by Yahoo called Babel Fish (which if you can believe, has been around since Al Gore invented the Internet. seriously, this particular website has been around since I started using a computer for work, which was 1996). Also found that it was easier to translate smaller blocks of text (like sentences as opposed to long paragraphs), and I also found it was easier to copy and paste than try to write it exactly as it was translated.

In any event, I've been careful enough not to go hog wild in using Spanish in my story, as I only keep it to the bare minimum of whenever my main female character needs to talk to her servants, who are from South America and choose not to speak English.

So Spanish is what I chose from my real world to be a semi-permanent fixture to my current and future writings, and so far, it has worked out to the way I envisioned: An addition that works when it isn't overused to the extent of losing a reader.

So how about you? Is there an element from your real world that you chose to integrate into your writings so as to make them uniquely yours?


  1. Yes, and I think it brings more of the author to the page when we do so, something the reader can further connect to. For me, it's this:

    Coffee - Blog

    Music/Concerts - Memoir Manuscript

    Favorite Locations from my life (Like the beach in today's blog post) - Fiction Manuscript

  2. I don't write fiction, so can't say that I do. :) Should be interesting - using Spanish as a vehicle.

  3. Good question. I use a lot of what is going on my day to day life, but often from my mood or my dreams, and a lot of natural imagery from the world around me.

  4. Joanne: That's cool. Sometimes I have a tendency to use locations in my fiction as well and does seem to make the passage feel more well rounded and fuller.

    I just find that Spanish is one of those languages that is really pleasing to the ears.

    Lynn: So far it has been. I find it brings an added depth to my writing that I otherwise woudn't have. It actually forces me to think outside the box whenever I do use it.

    Charles: Dream imagery is cool, as well as using imagery from the world around you. I do try incorporate a little of my surroundings as well, because I think that using something familiar gives my writing that little extra oomph.

  5. Damn I've been thinking about this all day. I am in the early stages of writing a book and what amazes me is just how much of me that is going into it although it's not about me. I wonder if that's true of all writers?

  6. Joe: It's quite possible. I know quite a bit of stuff that I've written over the years has in some way contained a slice of me, whether consicously or not. I think that the only way to write something with depth is to add a little bit of you to the mix.

    Whether it be your personal values or something that you like, or experienced, it's little bit of us that can make a story soar and give it that little extra pop to make it stick with the reader.

    Good luck with the project and keep us posted.

  7. I'm not sure what makes my writing uniquely mine..but as for white noise, I speak Spanish and there have been several times recently where people were going on about mundane shit and I said to Mr. RK, "Sometimes I wish I didn't understand another language! It's twice as much boring conversation to hear!"

  8. R: That is funny. Being able to eavesdrop and hearing the same old type of bullcrap in a different language.

    My white noise will always be Spanish. Can't speak it, but I'm surrounded by it at work and at home.

    And I've long gotten used to people carrying on conversations in front of me while riding the elevator, or people choosing to have private conversations in Spanish.

    I still think that Spanish is a beautiful language (although it has taken me many, many years to reach that conclusion), which is why I decided to incorporate it into my writings.

  9. I like the idea of using Spanish a bit in your stories. That could do a lot for mood, atmosphere or character motivation. Very interesting.

  10. Kelly: Thanks.

    Always wanted to add something into my writings besides my home state of Connecticut and this seems the best way of doing it.

    It's such a versatile language in that it can be used in a multitude of scenarios and situations without any continuity issues.


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