Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Some Days The Magic Works, Some Days It Doesn't

Unfortunately sometimes I have to put my nose to the grindstone and do the research. Even if it doesn't really show up in the finished story.

'Swamp 'Gator Blues' was inspired by watching Southern Comfort. So just by watching that film I had a vague idea of what the Louisiana swamps would look like. Unfortunately the film was set in the 70s and I needed to know about modern-day Louisiana. This being in the days before I had an Internet connection there now followed a search for any scrap of information that might help me out.

I read novels by James Lee Burke and Daniel Woodrell that were set in Louisiana and featured cajun characters. I devoured the sections of a New Orleans travel guide that related to swamp trips, local cuisine and voodoo. I pored over an old issue of Guns and Ammo that discussed the respective merits of 30.06 rifles over 30-30 rifles in an attempt to work out what hardware the hunters should be carrying. I suffered through an extremely boring travel book about the Southern states which ended up being a waste of time as the British author couldn't even be bothered to report things accurately, e.g. using "coon-arse" instead of "coonass". And I think it must have been about this time I watched The Big Easy as I vaguely recall naming Remy after the Dennis Quaid character. I even watched Jean-Claude Van Damme's Hard Target for the bayou scenes.

Probably the thing I worried about most was how to portray the cajun accent in print. I knew that cajun syntax could sometimes be a little strange but I couldn't find any real guidelines for how they phrased sentences so eventually I decided to just use standard syntax. Then there was the matter of how they pronounced words. In The Uncanny X-Men Chris Claremont always used to have the cajun X-Man Gambit say things like, "You gonna need a hand wit' dat." And of course Gambit had to drop in the occasional bit of French; "mes amis", "homme" etc.

Meanwhile an article on swamp music in Mojo suggested that gon' might be a more authentic pronounciation than going or gonna. And then there was the word "hunh" which I picked up from either Burke or Woodrell, I forget which.

I lost count of the times I rewrote the entire dialogue for the story trying to take into account all these different influences. In the end I went for a generic Southern accent with the odd bit of French thrown in.

All that work and there's still research-related aspects of that story that make me cringe when I read it. But hopefully I did enough work to fool the readers.

No comments: