Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who's Gazumping whom?

Nerd alert: I confess one of the things I love most about being back in Indy is the 24-hour NPR. There's this one show "A Way With Words" (link) that I think is just the bee's knees.

I had it on Saturday on the way to my hair appointment, and they were talking about unusual words. The word in question was gazump, which means to swindle someone at the last second before signing a contract--usually in real estate.

For example, you agree to buy a house for $200K, but then at the last minute, right as you're about to sign, the seller says, "Oh, the trees on the property are worth more than I thought. That'll be another $20K."

Gazump!

Then they went into a discussion of how to indicate sarcasm in text. This piqued the writer in me, as I'm always looking for creative ways to avoid adverbs in dialogue tags. My little writer-ears perked up.

Apparently there's this site sartalics.com that's promoting left-leaning italics to indicate slang. (She said, not sarcastically.)

The problem is all the typefaces will have to be redrawn (or whatever) to make that work. Too bad, because I think that's a great idea.

Digression: While searching for sartalics, I also found the Sarcasm Society's website (link), which is worth a look. Hilarious.

Back to Sartalics! It raised a problem I've encountered in my writing before. I mean, I'm pretty good at indicating the way people are delivering their lines based on what's gone before and body language, but sarcasm is tough.

How do you guys indicate sarcasm in dialogue without resorting to adverbs? I'm just curious.

In the meantime, have a great weekend, reader- and writer-friends! If you're celebrating Halloween, have fun and be safe.

I'll have a special TREAT for you on Monday. Til then~ <3

38 comments:

Sarah said...

That's a really great question! I try to use word choice and body language, like you do. Also, I use the inner thoughts of the POV character to reflect on what was said or have some reaction to it that indicates the dialogue contained sarcasm. Now, off to find a way to use "gazump" in conversation today ...

Miranda Hardy said...

Sarcasm is so hard to portray. I try to make it A's obvious as possible in the dialogue.

DL Hammons said...

I have a hard enough time recognizing sarcasm in real life when its directed at me!!! That's why I make an effort when I'm writing to ensure that the sarcasm is blunt enough that it stands out by itself without the use of creative dialogue tags.

Old Kitty said...

Of course sarcasm is easy to depict! LOL!!

But seriously! I like the idea of sartalics very very much!!

Take care
x

Creepy Query Girl said...

sometimes I use a flat line with no italics- indicating the tone of voice without saying 'flatly'. Like when someone has given an old addage that states the obvious and the character responds.

'Hmn. How profound.'

Other times I use italics. Actually I use a lot of italics. I just feel like it gets the intonation across most times.

Vicki Rocho said...

There's so much I love about this post...an NPR link? I'm totally listening to that at my desk an hour from now. Sartalics? Gonna have to check that out and there's a society for sarcasm? ahhhhhh, can this day get any better? (<-- that's not sarcasm, at least I don't think so)

DEZMOND said...

down with the gazump!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

That's a great question! And I'm not sure...I might have to go back and see where I've used it, and how. I think it's just one of those intuitive things ... which means I don't know what I'm doing! :)

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

i'm really... not sure!
yikes!
but gazump is scary!
and a happy safe halloween back atcha! and your babies!

Matthew MacNish said...

Sarcasm is one of those things that's very difficult to convey. Even in real life with body language, tone of voice, and everything else, it's still sometimes not picked up on.

When I write it, I try to use context to make it absolutely obvious, because missed sarcasm can be a real head-scratcher.

Clarissa Draper said...

OH man, that show sounds great! Too bad I can't get it where I am. Anyways, I have a difficult time with sarcasm. And I use it a lot.

Bish Denham said...

Thanks for the links!

Sarcasm...it's all in the tone of voice and delivery. A well placed italicized word with a bit of descriptive body/face language usually gets it across.

Jessica Bell said...

Now I'm wondering if Clarissa is being sarcastic or not ... ;o)

Carolyn Abiad said...

I wish I knew. I prefer to write a snarky character, but I had an agent tell me I was too flippant. Flippant? Anyway. That ixnayed sarcasm for me. For the moment.

Theresa Milstein said...

New York didn't have shows for 24 hours, which baffled me. New York's radio is pretty bad, which also doesn't make sense. When I moved to Cambridge, I was so happy for 24 NPR.

I'm pretty sarcastic and love a sarcastic guy. I married one.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Leigh .. I need to do a writing course .. I might understand some of this - I guess not being a writer I just 'do' my posts and I'm sarcastic enough when I need to be!! Cheers Hilary

Lynda R Young said...

There's a sarcasm society? Gosh.
When I use it in my dialogue I never flag it. The beauty of sarcasm is that it can sometimes be missed and I love doing that to characters on the occasion. Apart from that I make the recipient of the sarcasm react to the words.

Dawn Kurtagich said...

I use my beats to indicate the tone of the dialogue, and sometimes a well places italic for emphasis. You can be quite dead-pan with dialogue if you play the beats right :)

erica and christy said...

Okay - very funny blogpost title!! And I did read on an agent blog that there are way too many YA writers out there trying to write the sarcastic teen voice and failing (or over-sarcasming, if I can make up a word).

And yeah, the left-slant would be tough.
erica

Laura Pauling said...

Maybe by how others react to the sarcasm? People either laugh or they don't like it or they don't catch it. But I agree, it's not easy.

Tracy Jo said...

Sarcasm is a hard one! The perfect example that I see is on Facebook when people are trying to be funny and it comes off mean. When I write my book...I will come to you the expert for help! My future editor. :-)

Carol Riggs said...

Word choice and body language, yes, but even so I find critique partners misinterpreting or unsure if something is sarcastic or not. So I have to make it more obvious (sigh). Usually you can do it by how the other character reacts to what is said (sorta depends on the situation). Good luck!!

Lydia Kang said...

Can we turn that into a noun? "I really don't like gazumpers."

Lisa Gail Green said...

Hmm, that's a really good question. I tend to assume the surrounding dialogue and action pretty much takes care of it. I suppose if I'm not sure, I can have the MC think something like, 'maybe I shouldn't have said that' or someone NOT get it showing what it was. But really I think you can cover it with character and the surrounding info. Sorry so long winded!

walk2write said...

We've been gazumped a few times, especially in real estate. Guess that would make us gazumpees. Sarcasm is one of those dicey things. It has to fit the characters of the giver and the receiver or it won't work. Don't you just love the meaning? "To tear flesh." Ghoulish!

LTM said...

@Lisa--Right! I think probably the safest way (til sartalics) is to have the other characters react. Like, "Was that sarcasm?" ;o) <3

Pk Hrezo said...

It's very tough. And I think maybe establishing the character first helps those sarcastic lines to really shine. I use a lot of sarcasm in my dialog, and I think part of it is body language and part of is the dialog itself being witty. Since most peeps use lots of sarcasm anyway, it's prolly not as hard as we think for readers to pick up on it.
btw I've never heard "bees knees" before. lol... classic!

M Pax said...

At the beginning sarcasm is tough to show. Later, with context and the reader getting to know the characters, I think it's easier.

LTM said...

@PK--you're just the cat's pajamas! I think you (and Mary) are right about establishing the characters first and then slipping in the sarcasm toward the middle-end. Have a super holiday~ <3

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Sometimes I'll mention the tone is heavy with sarcasm, but mostly it's obvious. It doesn't need to be told. The reader knows from the context and characterization that it is sarcasm. I think it's only for a younger audience (MG) that it needs to be spelled out more.

RaShelle Workman said...

Leigh - I love sarcasm. That doesn't mean I'm good at it. Gazump is awesome as is the National Sarcasm Society... just the fact that it exists is AWESOME!!

Talli Roland said...

Gazump is actually a very popular word in the UK. It's everywhere, especially in real estate. Ugh.

Hmm, sarcasm. I don't know - usually it's the content of the remark!

Nas Dean said...

Love sarcasm when it's done with witty dialogues!

Liz Fichera said...

My new fave word is now gazump! It sounds so cartoonish and perfect. It reminds me of the old Batman episodes when they'd splash words like POW! and BLURP! on the screen during the fight scenes.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Great post! A waggle of the eyebrows usually gets the point across that the one speaking was being sarcastic. OR a roll of the eyes from teh receiving party could do it.

Sometimes though, if you know the characters enough by the time you get to the sarcastic banter, the dialogue is enough.

How cool about the left leaning italics! Too bad that would be so much trouble to persue. Hmm. Off to check out the sarcism website!

Anita Grace Howard said...

Erm, I meant pursue. HEH.

What, as if you've never mispelled something? *waggles eyebrows* Hee

Draven Ames said...

I try my hardest to make the dialogue very clear, sometimes along with italics for word emphasis. Actions and thoughts can help, but I try not to depend on them.

LTM said...

@Liz--It does! And I was just thinking of the sarcastic gazump... Insult to injury. :D <3

@Anita G.--waggle... *snort* :D Yes! The eye roll is helpful, too! Even a comment like, "Thanks for the sarcasm." Or something. Yes, pursue. I knew what you meant. ;o) <3