Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Things I Say to My Dog (or, to Catch a Phrase)

As the title of this post would indicate, I’m bringing you a list of things I say most often to Little Dog. (And I promise I have a point; it’s not just me taking another opportunity to obsess about my pet.) These come to you in no particular order:

- “What goes through your little brain?”
- “I don’t need assistance.”

They’re catchphrases at this point, particularly the one about Ewoks. They’ve become part of my lexicon around the house. And I’m okay with that, because I think catchphrases are important in popular culture. Everything from Joey saying, “How YOU doin’?” on Friends to the old woman in the Wendy’s commercial asking, “Where’s the beef?” is part of our collective DNA at this point, and I encourage the use of catchphrases among fictional characters and narrators.

This is because they serve as identifiers and quirks, like Kurt Vonnegut’s pointed use of “So it goes” in Slaughterhouse-Five. If you prefer to think of it in a more current way, catchphrases are the hashtags of a character’s voice--something that bears repeating for one reason or another. For example, I think it’s important to tell Little Dog that she resembles a fictional animal from a massive science fiction franchise, which itself gave us both the directive to “use the force” and the best/worst Father’s Day conversation of all time.

If you pay attention to the everyday, non-fictional people all around you, I’m sure you’ll find that they are attached to certain words and phrases over others, like those who have not progressed past the “epic fail” heyday of 2008-2009 or a friend who really loves saying, “Right on” whenever he’s trying to give you an affirmation. Once you realize this, you’ll also see the necessity of catchphrases in your writing.

Try it out sometime just to see what kind of texture it gives your characters. After all, with a little effort, your character or narrator could inherit Draco “My Father Will Hear About This” Malfoy’s catchphrase crown!


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