The Writer’s Craft #38 – To Hiss the Unhissable
Joe Mahoney is a broadcaster with the CBC, an author of short stories, and a member of SF Canada. His Blog, Assorted Nonsense, is online at http://www.assortednonsense.com/.
Far be it from me to criticize someone of J.K.Rowling’s stature. Obviously she knocked Harry Potter out of the park. That kind of success is almost beyond criticism.
But I’m going to criticize her anyway.
I read the entire series out loud to my daughters. We all enjoyed it immensely. But one habit of hers never failed to take me out of the story. It was this:
“Get the door,” Aunt Petunia hissed at Harry.
I defy anyone to be able to hiss “Get the door.” Is it possible to hiss without a sibilant?
Perhaps I will be accused of not trying hard enough. Maybe, if I really tried, I could hiss “get” or “door.”
But the issue here is not so much attempting to hiss without a sibilant, it’s that every time I encountered a character attempting to hiss without a sibilant I just had to attempt to hiss the words myself. Forcing me to leave the story.
I realize I’m being picky, that this sort of thing wouldn’t bother your average reader (it certainly didn’t affect Rowling’s sales). It’s just that I work hard to keep my readers immersed in my stories, and I would be chagrined to learn that instead of losing themselves in my dream my readers were busy attempting to hiss the unhissable.
All of which begs the question: what makes you hissing mad about the stories you read?