East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Changing languages


I’m having a weird experience – I’m writing the first Italian-language story of Aculeo & Amunet, and it’s tough going.
Now the plot is fully outlined and the action pieces are set-up.
I’ve got the historical background and some of the imagery.
And of course the characters are my own, and I love to write about them.
It’s the way they speak.
The dialogue is stilted.
The rhythm of the exchanges between my characters is heavily connected with the language I write in.
In Italian, Aculeo and Amunet are still witty and fun, but they are… different.
Aculeo is tough but lacks class, and uses too many words, Amunet comes across as too soft and vaguely querulous.
This is not good.

The reason is, probably, that English is a much more concise and economic language – to me at least, maybe because it is my second language and I first experienced it through narrative and songs and not through everyday use.
I think Aculeo and Amunet in English.
I hear their speech in my head in English.

The general effect: scenes that are clear and “as well as written” in my mind slump on the page and read horribly.

All in all, this is a bad problem – writing this story in Italian is slower going than I imagined, and it cost me so far two full days: I should have closed my story on Friday night, and here I am still writing and rewriting, only 50% of the way in.
The editor waiting for my story is not going to be pleased, and this is subtracting time from other (paid!) projects.
Now, at around 3000 words, I’ll scrap the last 500 I wrote, and I’ll try and complete the story in English.
And then, I’ll translate it.
It will be easier, faster, and I’ll connect again with my characters.

But as I said, this is getting weird.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Changing languages

  1. It happens to me all the fine with rules writing. This is why I do not write rules in Italian anymore.


  2. all the “time”. I shouldn’t comment via mobile.


  3. Go, Davide, go!

    Can’t wait to see the first A&A story in Italian… As i’m accustomed to read it in english, I expect it would sound somehow … well, weird, as you point out. But I’m sure at the end it won’t be no disappointment.

    By the way, I experienced the same problem, as sometimes I wrote scenes or quick dialogue tags in eglish (that had become by far the main language of my reading, as it has always been of my “listenings”)… well, a cut that sounds simply cool on the first draft (written by pencil in my awful handwriting) turns out a complete piece of crap (or simply just weird as i try to translate it in Italian.

    Well, anyway good luck for yoyr work.



  4. Nabokov had the same experience when he was writing his autobiography… thinking about his Russian memories, in English, seemed to change them somehow.


  5. Pingback: Translating and Re-Writing | Karavansara

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