Notes on “24601”: Talking on the page.

February 9th, 2012 § 0 comments

So in real life, I get paid to listen to people talk.


Most of what I do for my academic work is talk to people, record them, and go back and figure out how they’re talking and what that might tell me about them. Do they talk more like me? Do they change the way they talk?

When you listen to a lot of people, and then go back and transcribe them, you get a sense for what makes speech sound different. As a writer doing this task, one of the things I often try to pick up is, what aspects of a person’s speech most render their way of speaking without significantly altering the way it appears on the page?

When I try to give a voice to a character, I think a lot about what kinds of subtle word choices they make. For instance, I’m often in Carlisle’s head, especially on the Carlisle tumblr. He’s fun, because he often reaches for the twenty-dollar words, or archaic usages (“flag” meaning ‘to tire’ has come up more than once).  In “Secondhand Rose,” I let Emmett switch object and subject pronouns and use some terminology from Appalachian English.

My first thought for the New Moon Canon Tour was, “Wow, it would be fun to write a fic that deals with how Jasper felt about having attacked Bella.” It’s a missing element in a lot of New Moon fic, including my own. But I was busy, and the idea hadn’t crystalized.

Then, with the deadline looming, I had this idea…to title the fic “24601,” after the number of Jean Valjean in Les Mis, and let that be the central allusion driving who Jasper feels he is at that moment. Of course, one of the things I really wanted to do was both let the allusion stand, but also let the story stand without it. If you know Les Mis, and you know Valjean, then the story has a layer of meaning that isn’t on its surface. At the same time, if you miss both of those things, I still wanted the story to ring true. Judging from reviews, that seems to have worked.

Jasper is, of course, very southern, and in my opinion, takes pride in his southern heritage, which would likely lead him to hold on to some of the features of his way of speaking long after he’d mastered other English dialects, which he no doubt would, as a vampire.  But how to get that across on the page? I reached for some words, like “reckon,” and “kittywompus,” but even more so, with Jasper, I reached for rhythm.


Individual paragraphs.


The words of a soldier.

Now, I have to say, while I put my own spin on Jasper’s speech, this fic, in both its way of presenting Jasper’s thinking and its way of presenting his talking, were heavily influenced by “Amputated at the Neck,” by minisinoo. She’s a fic writer I look up to a huge, huge deal, and the way she presented Jasper’s views of Edward in that short piece resonated with me a great deal and have for years. So this is me taking that a bit further.

I was very grateful to have two very last-minute beta reads on this, from malianani and sleepyvalentina, both of whom helped me put those final tweaks on the voice and on the progression and helped me sew back together the haphazard pieces that I generated as I frantically threw this one down. As always, it’s the eyes which aren’t mine which add the final level of strength to any given story.

Thank you to all who read, and especially to all who voted. And for those who weren’t following the contest, happy reading for the first time.



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