My name is Beverley Ann Scott and I am a medical doctor by profession. I have always enjoyed writing. When I was in school I enjoyed reading West Indian literature. However most of the readings were very dated and far removed from the reality of my life. I wanted to write a novel that was uniquely Caribbean, modern and one that both old and young could enjoy. While writing this novel I thought especially of young adult readers, teenagers in school. I wanted to write a book that would appeal to that age group but that would also have deeper meaning. The Stolen Cascadura, launched in 2007, is a West Indian novel set in Trinidad which revolves around characters from different socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
The main characters come from two different backgrounds. Some are from the Beetham while others are from the more affluent parts of Trinidad and then there are those from the East. Their lives become intertwined in true Trinidad fashion and in some instances irreversibly changed. The book deals with the issues of class, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, and vagrancy. It deals with these issues in an entertaining way and uses simple language which makes it easier for the average person to read.
Most of the feedback has been good. Readers have been very vocal about what they like and dislike about The Stolen Cascadura. This really encourages me and challenges me to keep writing and to do better. I don’t expect my work to appeal to everybody but I do enjoy getting feedback from my readers, both the good and the bad feedback because that way I know when I’ve done something well as well as when I need to improve on something.
Language used in The Stolen Cascadura
I used very simple language in The Stolen Cascadura. My writing style is extremely simple. I do not know how to write any other way. I try when I am writing to imagine my characters as they speak and act and move as if they were real persons. So my writing reflects that simplicity. I do not use Standard English throughout. I use local dialect or what some call Creole. This makes my characters more alive and so it is easier for my readers to identify with them.
Most of the characters in the novel spoke Creole but because the novel deals with issues of class among many others, I tried to distinguish some characters by having them use proper English all the time. Socioeconomic status was a determining factor in deciding who would speak more Creole and who would not. I wanted everybody to speak some Creole because I think in our culture everybody speaks some Creole but I needed to make a distinction between certain characters so I could not allow everybody to speak Creole all the time.
I tried to use speech for each character that would help portray that character better. So for example in portraying a bandit, I used the type of language that I would expect a bandit to use. In portraying a wealthy lady who was important in society I used the sort of language in keeping with that character. Socioeconomic status played a big part as did the level of education of the character and the setting in which the person was speaking. For example even though the character Eddy was from the Beetham, he was going to QRC and was surrounded by young men speaking in a certain way during the day time. So I tried to straddle his character between some good English and some Creole.
My biggest challenge was writing Creole. The usage of words is varied as is the spelling. At first I tried to write out the words in the way in which they sounded but that was also very challenging. When I had to spell a simple word like “nothing”, I had to decide if when writing it in Creole I was going to spell it as “nutting” or “nuttin” because usually in Creole the “h” and the “g” are not pronounced. So I had to decide early and try to standardise it throughout the text and this proved very difficult. I used the Cote-ce-Cote-la dictionary to help me write the Creole in The Stolen Cascadura.
However even after writing many things in Creole, I found myself re-reading the Creole out loud and not liking the way it sounded or even looked on the page. It is much easier for me to write in Standard English because that is how we have all been taught to write. Writing in Creole is much more difficult than speaking Creole and for me this was a huge challenge but I was committed to the process and I think it paid off in the end. I felt it was important to have the characters speak in a way that was in keeping with their roles. Anything else I felt would be unrealistic. I could not have my bandits in the novel for example speaking the Queen’s English. So I had to keep working on it till I got it right.
In my second novel not launched yet, I was much more discriminate in my use of TT Creole. What I discovered was that there were some words that did not need to be placed in Creole in order to get their meanings across. An example is the word “that”. I realised that it did not add much to the speech of my character by using the correct spelling as opposed to spelling it like “dat”. The same for a word like “children” which is pronounced as “chirren” in Creole. So what I think or at least I hope I did better this time around is use the Creole more effectively and when necessary. When it was not needed I did not use it. I think that by doing this I make the work more readable for a wider audience.
Thanked for using Creole in The Stolen Cascadura
To the people who wish to express themselves in their spoken language but feel challenged to do so, I say don’t give up, don’t stop trying. Creole is beautiful. It is our heritage and we must embrace it. Everyone will not like the use of Creole. I had some readers tell me that they could not bear to read the Creole. They said they disliked the wanton use of the Creole and they felt that it distracted them from the story. But I also had readers applaud me for the use of Creole and thank me for making the book more readable because for them that is what the Creole did.
Most people in our society, especially those of the post colonial era did not grow up reading Creole. So for many people Creole is not something they expect to read in a novel. But I firmly believe that we cannot escape the use of Creole especially in the spoken word when writing or even relating stories about our society. To do that would be to deny our unique identity and to hide the richness that is our culture. Speaking Creole is easier than writing it and this is why persons writing it should be encouraged to get it in context and to get it right. I am still fine tuning the art of writing Creole but I would never give up on it as a form of expression because it is a representation of who we are as a people. So to all those who struggle with it, I say struggle on, because one day, future generations will thank you.
January 2013 – Issue 3 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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