Smart Alec (Syndrome)

October 15, 2013 by in category Archives tagged as , , , with 0 and 0
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Ingrid Bergman/Gaslight

“Are you trying to gaslight me?”
I asked a friend that when she swore I had never delivered the book I promised to loan her.  Instead of laughing, she looked at me like I was speaking another language and in a way I was. My friend had never seen the movie Gaslight in which the dashing Charles Boyer attempts to drive the vulnerable Ingrid Bergman mad by lowering the gaslights and insisting the change in lighting is all in her imagination. The plot is a bit more intricate than that, but the point is that my frame of reference was completely foreign to my friend’s and the joke fell flat.
As authors we often write with abandon when we’re in the zone. We research all sorts of things that we believe will give our work legitimacy. To us this information is perfectly sound and critical to the integrity of our novel; to the reader that same information can be confusing or, worse, interpreted as arrogant.  The last thing an author wants to do is take her reader out of the story. The other last thing an author wants is to have the story suffer because she doesn’t include critical information.
How do you walk the fine line between being a smart author or a smart Alec? Take a deep breath, recognize the pitfalls, and apply your talent to finding new ways to communicate even the most intricate information.
Genres that are most susceptible to the Smart Alec Syndrome include :
  • ·      Procedural (police, medical, legal, etc.)
  • ·      Historical
  • ·      Literary

Symptoms of the Smart Alec Syndrome are the use of:
  • ·      Foreign words and phrases
  • ·      Insider references
  • ·      Acronyms
  • ·      Historical, legal, medical references
  • ·      Rare, anachronistic, and/or exotic words

Cures for SAS (Smart Alec Syndrome) can include but are not limited to:
  • ·      Use opposing dialogue for explanation and definition. This may be accomplished  through agreement, amusement, derision, etc.
  • ·      Use the omniscient voice to explain and explore a concept
  • ·      Find another way to explain the word or references that retains the integrity of your work
  • ·      Choose the vernacular but craft a sentence that reflects the tonal uniqueness of the original choice
     Analyze and adjust your work and you will be a Smart Author not a Smart Alec.

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