*Picture is from the ABSOLUTELY perfect example of Montreal Franglais : Balconville by David Fennario.
I love writing slang. I love writing Frenglish too. I loved Gabino Iglesias’s Zero Saints because it mixed English and Spanish flawlessly.
These transitions in language come naturally to me. As someone who was raised in a city where you can easily switch between two or three languages at any moment in any discussion. Montreal has it’s own slang, it’s own language. We grew up part Québécois, part Canadian, watched American television and mixed everything and anything from Spanish, to Creole to Greek and more recently, Arabic in the daily language of things. The specific language here is known as “Joual”, and “Frenglish” or “Franglais” which are slightly different interpretations of a similar thing and used frequently.
Writing Slang is a very “oral” issue. You have to get that feel for the moments where people switch “naturally” between one language or another. I noticed similar patterns between Iglesias’ work and my own which lead me to believe there might be similarities in the pacing and tempo.
Writing slang is also very hard and it comes with a problem: You want to have that “legitimate” local flavour but you might not want to alienate every reader out there. There are two ways you can go about his :
1 – write the entire story in slang and make it a “local” piece of literary work that people might be interested in IF they are interested in that local culture.
2- Integrate enough of it to get that “reality” in the story while allowing the reader to stay in the story.
The bottom line is that it has to ring true. I’ve decided to include some Joual in every or my works. It becomes a hard balancing act that I’d like to think I’ve managed to pull off over the years.
Below is a deli scene from my upcoming novel : “Down With the Underdogs.”
I find delis, in Montreal at least, is the absolute best place to ring true to both Frenglish and the working class, so if you’re looking to write slang, this could be an example for you.
Excerpt from the upcoming novel Down With the Underdogs.
“Good! That’s good for you. What can I get for the boss then,”
“Two hot-dogs, mayo, and a coke.”
“Alright,” Vincent said. He turned to some kid over at the counter. He was busy on his cellphone. “Hey. Michael. Two steamé avec mayo.”
“Add a fry to that.”
“Avec une fritte!” he added. The kid wasn’t moving. Vincent sighed. I laughed.
“Coming up,” the kid said in English with a thick Quebecois accent but only after finishing his text.
Vincent looked to us. “Eh! I’m gonna have to get rid of that kid.”
“Doesn’t work much?”
“He’s got a girl on his mind that one, I tell you,” he said as he ran a towel over his counter.
“Don’t we all?”
“I mean. I’m no brain surgeon. But he’s not going to school, he’s not really working. I got him here part time and as far as I know he’s got nothing else going.” He nodded his head. “C’est ben’ triste quand tu y’ penses.” He added in French. “I don’t know. Maybe I don’t know anything, but he’s not looking to learn the job, you know? This is a subtle business.”
“A diner is subtle business?” Phil asked.
“Of course it is? Are you kidding me?”
The waitress came around, “Vince’,” she said, “deux poutines ‘pis une rondelle su’a’ trois.”
Vincent shouted the order in Frenglish to his cook and leaned back on his counter. “It’s like in the morning, he makes the eggs and half the damn egg is sticking there, burnt to the plate. Une croute ça d’épaisse, osti. And I tell him, ‘Jesus Christ that’s my profit you’re burning over there.’ And I’m not even talking about the time we’ll waste cleaning this mess up. Ciboire! Où l’autre jour,” he sighed. “I mean we get some of those fruit flies in the garbage back there, ‘tsé! Ta-bernak! Some mess that was. So I go out and they sell me this powder to put in the bottom of the bags and this kid he sees the powder and he doesn’t ask about it and the bag’s empty and he just changes it. No wonder I’m losing my shirt over this place.”
We all thought is was funny. We all smiled and had a good time. The guy was probably just as broke has he was saying he was. There’s no way there was any real money in food services. But it was the way he turned all of it into a grandiose story of life and death.
I liked it. I liked it a lot.
“He doesn’t get it,” Vincent continued. “Y’ comprends pas,” he repeated in French. “You got to count everything. Every bag, every egg, every bun, everything, Ostie! Otherwise you’re eating your profit, ‘tsé.” The deli’s phone rang. Vicent picked it up and shouted “yeah?” He paused for a second and then started speaking Greek. He looked back at us and switched to French and English gain, “Heille ça s’en viens là, guys! Alright? Deux minutes, OK?” before going right back to shouting in Greek on the phone.
There was no other way to say it: I fucking loved this city.
My “Down With the Underdogs” tribute to the mystery scene
To the former punks
And factory workers
Border crossing saviors
To the inner-city players,
Of both style and substance
Silent geeks, the crazy kind
And other Fuck the World
Types or people,
My kind of people,
Down with the underdogs.
And now some context to this post:
I’m in the editing of my next novel, Down With the Underdogs, with no date in sight, but I am starting to think about things like tributes and photos and covers and working on expanding my network…that kind of shit.
Some version of this thing will go in as tribute in the book.
As for networking, I decided to go to any artistic or literary event I could find these past few weeks.
Tonight, I went to a mile-end poetry reading. And I’m a kid from the East, so you know I don’t fit in no fucking mile-end poetry reading. I also happen to be a poet who doesn’t really like poetry, or as Bukowski would say, “it’s all so boring! Where’s the guts?”
I mean, Cat Kidd was as impressive as I expected her to be, but the rest of it, I could’ve lived without. I mean, they can do whatever they want and who gives a fuck, it’s all good and well and everything, but it did make me realize just how much I could appreciate the mystery scene I landed in a few months ago.
Some of you I’ve met in real life, others I’ve only met online, but there is this unique meeting point of so many representatives of the working class in the people I’ve met. The bottom half of society is well represented with you and I wanted to say it, I guess.
I have known real love
Love met in the haze of
Love met in the hail of
And the still cold rain
Of early spring
I have known real love
In black and white
And the purest drive of passion
Made for music,
Made for movies
And the greater pages of literature
A love of guts
Like The Ring of Fire
Love is a Dog from Hell
I have met love for the ages
I really did
The stuff of legends
I swear to god
Love that drives you to madness
Love that drives you
To a life of pure
And honest labour.
Some men would rather die in the hell of battle
As other will lose their soul on a line.
I was the latter and still don’t know if I regret it.
I have met true love
Love stuck in the endless fights
Of ego, pride
And the trappings of ambition.
There really is nothing worse than ambition.
But I stuck with it
Or high water
I stuck with it.
And the best
It has to be the worst
Is I still can’t say why.
I simply wished for a simple life
A truly simple kind of life.
What could be more important than family,
Or a home at night?
Popcorn and pop
And a movie sometimes
Then the struggle with the baths
And the teeth and the pajamas
With a good night kiss and a hug
That’s just a second longer than usual
As the day fades away, solemn in the night
The safety of it all
Can hide the poverty
And the struggles and the pain
It makes you forget the warehouse job
And the endless flow of brown boxes.
It really does
It can hide the troubles and the bills
And the never-ending need for food.
And the pinch of daily grievances
A father and a husband,
Us against the world
Through a decade of one’s born days.
For a few moments
When the lights are out but the kids are peaceful,
Asleep in the nicest bed you could afford
And it seems to be enough
So you turn off the lights
And think maybe,
You finally starting to win.
It had been too long and it was too late. We had been dragging it for a few months too many and I was just pissed. It had nothing to do with ordinary anger anymore; regular anger, common anger, every day anger anymore. It wasn’t you “were late in the cold” anger or even “screaming around in the kitchen” anger.
This was silent anger and it was probably even worse.
It was anger that settled deep Inside your chest. It was simmering, draining anger. Anger that settled down in your gut, and there was no way to get to it. It just say right there where it hurt for real. It settled down in your mind and in your soul, rotting you from the inside only to leave a pool of fucking shit right where it mattered the most.
And you feel it, you know it. You can’t shake it off. That shit is incrusted there so hard you can’t even speak about it anymore. That’s the kind of anger I was talking about.
It was the kind of anger shrinks all over the world made their fortunes on. But I was too poor for a shrink.
This one’s gonna have to stick around for a while.
So, 2016 is almost over… thank god!
2016 was a year of Almost, Meh and Maybe. As I’m sitting here with a bottle of lime-flavoured sparkling water and a bowl of milk chocolate kisses (both of which are the closest thing to hard drugs and alcohol I allow myself as a mid-thirties man in his mid-life crisis trying to hit the gym “hard” to get back into photo shoot shape…) I figured 2016 was a mix-bag at best.
So 2016, right? A lot of you may have had a similar year if I’m to trust my facebook feed. This could also be a case of echo-chamber-on-social-media, but given the Trump election…yeah! I think we all went there.
2016 was the year of my first book deal… I was soooo fucking excited. I almost “made it,” Fucking published author. Fuck yeah… but nobody’s buying books and I’m regularly advised to “just start your own you tube channel.” Jesus fucking christ!
In 2016 I took my first plane at 34. I never saw traveling as a necessity. To me it’s always been a waste of money. But I was invited to Bouchercon in NOLA and managed to find a ticket there and back for $400 after working many internet resellers against one another, traveling at highly unpopular hours…only to be in NOLA for a grand total of 30 hours or so…Bouchercon was pretty cool. I want to make it back there for sure…So it’s technically a yeah, but also a meh and I’m actually happy about it so… it’s a MEH with a story to tell now…that counts as a maybe. Let’s call it a maybe.
2016 was the year I made it into a big MBA school. I watched The Big Short and I loved that Mark Baum was angry and that Michael Burry was insane and that Ben Rickert felt downright suicidal. So I said “why the fuck not?!?” I got into John Molson School of Business…YEAH! fucking A! Got a loan for it too…so. yeah! 2016 was also the year I came to the hard realization that a big MBA school was not the place for “the rest of us.” It felt a bit like a con too…still on the fence about that. Anyways! I failed. I don’t care. I failed at a stats class that still taught you things as if Excel had not been invented 3 decades ago… I caught 3 guys plagiarizing on two different papers and I got called into meetings and wrote reports and I failed stats and you can’t fail a class. I left that shit disgruntled and confused and convinced I belonged in the writing world more than ever… That landed me only a few thousand more in the red… so that’s gonna work itself out over 15 years or so…MEH! for that. At least now I know why the whole economy’s fucked and I may or may not have a few ideas about some international/finance thriller shit down the road…still a maybe. (By the way : 2016 was the year I managed to reel in 30% on the stock market… BUT it was in a TMX simulation… I’m still too poor to become rich!)
2016 was also the year where we almost made money. That was all thanks to my wife working so hard for so many months on 3 major contracts back to back to back. So Kudos…Only problem is there’s never any work in winter here, so again, we’re waiting on the unemployment for half our income, so meh!
In 2016 we left the up-and coming and quickly gentrifying neighbourhood of Rosemont. where we lives somewhat happily for 8 years… 2016 was the year we managed to buy a home. But all my savings, my wife’s savings and the backing of my (working class) parents, and we landed back in our old (not so glamorous) neighbourhood… I like it. The gym is hood as fuck, people are working class, got the van broken into while I was away for 30 hours on my first ever trip at the age of 34…, so MEH! The place is bigger than our last though…so almost, motherfucker…almost.
So 2016’s been a years of “almost” but mostly, “maybe.” Maybe the groundwork’s been set up for 2017. Maybe Trump won’t be an asshole. Maybe the economy won’t crash. Maybe the water won’t rise just yet. Maybe Elon Musk’s gonna single-handedly fix global warming.
Iggy Pop’s not dead yet. So Maybe.
First Bouchercon From the Top of My Head.
I’ve slept about 12 hours in three days and met a LOT of great people. Please don’T feel left out if I don’t mention you here.
- – –
New-Orleans is way too warm for the average Canadian.
Apparently, New-Orleans is way to warm for New-Orleans because they blast that AC pretty fucking hard.
Bouchercon is actually really fun.
Eric Campbell could be one of the nicest person on the surface of this earth.
Eric Campbell could end up being the most important publisher of quality authors in the next 3 to 5 years.
Somehow ended up riding along on a lunch with Gary Phillips.
Gary Phillips has the most amazing voice you’ve ever heard.
I could listen to Gary Phillips talk for hours on end. You should as well…
Terrence McCauley was so nice, I was wondering if Terrence McCauley was a closet Canadian.
I might make the “closet-Canadian” a thing… will try it next year see if it sticks.
I don’t know if there’s one single Molecule of evil dark matter in Kate Pilarcik. If it’s in there, it’s gonna take the hubble telescope to find it.
Continuous conversations was really fun. I hope they expand on the concept next year.
Some of the bigger authors did feel douchy on the pannels.
I may ask James Ray Tuck to tattoo FTW on my hands some day.
Christa Faust, however, did not feel douchy at all.
Christa Faust so fucking intimidating to me…turned out to be SUPER welcoming.
I did not know who Christa Faust was when I met her. She didn’t care AT ALL.
In fact I didn’t know who anyone was in the mystery scene. That didn’t seem to matter at all.
Joe Clifford has the charisma of a superstar.
I want to write a movie where Joe Clifford is the lead role.
Maria alexander is just a totally weird and likeable person who knows japanese sword techniques.
The Mystery scene is probably the best place for any grown up punk to land his sorry ass.
Met John McFetridge in real life.
John McFetridge is much taller than expected.
On the other hand, Eric Campbell is much shorter than expected. (sorry!)
Met at least three other Canadians… Why haven’t we heard about them/us in any way, shape or form… yeah we know why, right?
Montreal doesn’t really have a mystery scene. People really seem to dig that shit. We need to work on that.
Benoit Lelievre really needs to go to the next one and I’m fucking serious.