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How would heavenly beings talk?


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#1 Grace Campbell

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 06:41 PM

Hi,

 

Recently, a book editor read through the sample I sent to him, and he said that the writing was great but "I'm concerned because your angels come off as too human. They use slang and bicker like teenagers."

Well, that's not good, for two reasons.
1--they CANNOT come off as teenagers at all because my book is adult.
2--all these other angel books have angels in them that act so human they're basically just people with super powers, immortality, and pretty wings. I want to stand out, hopefully.

So the editor suggested I pick at least 5 phrases that reference the angels' world, such as quoting from works like "Paradise Lost" and Bible verses.
Been doing that, it's working out great. Buuuuuttt:
 

How Do You Think An Angel Would Speak (seriously, emotionally)? What Kind Of Vibe Do You Think Would Get From Him Or Her? How Do You Think They Would Act?

And, this the editor did not go into: how would the fallen speak and what would they reference to, if anything?
 


Any input is greatly appreciated. Really!!
:biggrin: 


 


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#2 margotdarko

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 07:24 PM

Are you a Supernatural fan? I adore Castiel. He's definitely how I would like to imagine angels talking. :)



#3 Fer

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:08 PM

Because of my knowledge of Greek mythology, I was asked to critique an MS where the main character was a Greek god. A Greek god is a very ancient being, but the story was set in our time. My biggest comment about the Greek god was that the author made him speak like a Californian surfer dude and while I was reading this MS I could only think of the movie "Dude, where is my car?". When I think of how a Greek god would speak, it would be graceful and in straight plain English. No slang what so ever. I would image that an Angel would speak this way as well.


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#4 Leigh Teale

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:09 PM

Eh, my one and only angel, Clarence, drawls. I <3 him. My readers have loved him and another character so much that I had to do a sequel starring them. Many of my other "beyond" characters talk more formally, though. Death in particular has a very stiff voice.

 

My CP's angels vary. Her main character starts off talking a little stiff, but the more he interacts with humans the more his speech patterns slip. Her fallen character cusses and uses slang and generally talks like a 20-something college student.


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#5 Grace Campbell

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:19 PM

Are you a Supernatural fan? I adore Castiel. He's definitely how I would like to imagine angels talking. :)

Hey! I've never seen Supernatural, but I'll have to check it out. Will keep my eyes peeled for Castiel ;)


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#6 Grace Campbell

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:22 PM

Because of my knowledge of Greek mythology, I was asked to critique an MS where the main character was a Greek god. A Greek god is a very ancient being, but the story was set in our time. My biggest comment about the Greek god was that the author made him speak like a Californian surfer dude and while I was reading this MS I could only think of the movie "Dude, where is my car?". When I think of how a Greek god would speak, it would be graceful and in straight plain English. No slang what so ever. I would image that an Angel would speak this way as well.

Yep, the trouble with writing about supernatural beings (gods, angels,) is that they're ancient. I mean, if I spoke to someone from the 10th century, that person would sound absolutely nothing like me. The words would be different, the outlook on life.

 

I imagine an angel would speak clearly and not use human slang. Angels and gods aren't humans and shouldn't be treated as such.

 


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#7 Grace Campbell

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:25 PM

Eh, my one and only angel, Clarence, drawls. I <3 him. My readers have loved him and another character so much that I had to do a sequel starring them. Many of my other "beyond" characters talk more formally, though. Death in particular has a very stiff voice.

 

My CP's angels vary. Her main character starts off talking a little stiff, but the more he interacts with humans the more his speech patterns slip. Her fallen character cusses and uses slang and generally talks like a 20-something college student.

Very interesting! (Now you've got me wanting to read your book!).
For my fallen, I picture them speaking formally actually (in the Bible, Satan spoke formally, but craftily). I think the fallen are all about deceiving. Believe it or not, I don't think the fallen would cuss or use human slang. The fallen became the "fallen" because they saw humankind as below them and would not serve humans as God wanted them to.
Just my opinion! (Your CP's book sounds cool too!). Ugh! Thanks a lot, Leigh, now you've got me wanting to read them!


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#8 margotdarko

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:55 PM

If you have Netflix, try out Supernatural ASAP! Holy crow is it awesome once it gets going. Though Cas doesn't show up for a long time. The fifth season I believe. But it's really a great, super fun and inventive show.

#9 Leigh Teale

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 10:17 PM

If you have Netflix, try out Supernatural ASAP! Holy crow is it awesome once it gets going. Though Cas doesn't show up for a long time. The fifth season I believe. But it's really a great, super fun and inventive show.

 

I think it was the fourth? They kind of run together. We stopped watching after the fifth season (and pretty much pretend the last 15 seconds or so didn't actually happen). All my friends are obsessed with it, and it's a really good show, but we personally liked the way it wrapped up there in five.

 

Castiel is pretty freaking awesome, imho.


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#10 EricJ

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 11:01 PM

I imagine an angel would speak clearly and not use human slang. Angels and gods aren't humans and shouldn't be treated as such.

 

I imagine it would be in simple terms that would come just short of "talking down" (but in the good way.)

Specifically, more like the eerie Keir Dullea cameo from "2010".



#11 LucidDreamer

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 08:02 AM

Maybe experiment with a more formal speech pattern -- avoiding slang and contractions?

Since speaking human language is not "natural" to them, you don't want them to sound too comfortable with it.

 

Although, given that no one really knows how angels speak :smile: I think there's some latitude.  Perhaps set a speech pattern that sounds right to you and then just stick to it.



#12 Late Bloomer

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 10:58 PM

I have a manuscript out there right now for consideration where two of my main characters are guardian angels. The working title is Heaven Help Me. Both are guardians; one has been in Heaven for an undetermined period of time and does speak rather formally and dry. The second just arrived in Heaven and acts and speaks like her mortal/earthbound self, with not so heavenly language and all (if you know what I mean). As the story progresses, so does her transformation into a more heavenly being, speaking more and more like her mentor as time goes by.

 

ALL of my beta readers have loved these characters. Personally, if an editor wanted me to change it I would vehemently object!



#13 M. Arthur Stone

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 12:48 PM

When I think of how an angel would speak, I relate to Paul Bettany's character in Legion.


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#14 Aaron Bradford Starr

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 11:03 AM

I would imagine an angelic being to be unshakably calm, and quiet in their manner and words.  Perhaps they'd speak softly.  No slang, and short, direct sentences.  The would choose words and descriptions that emphasize the positive in all things, including evil people and beings.  In order to get a feel for the dark side of things, one would need to concentrate on what an angelic creature isn't saying.  Nothing would make an angel angry, or jealous, or fearful.  For them, evil would be a state that made them regretful, rather than angry, and the greater the evil, the deeper their sadness.

 

"Lucifer?  Yes, I remember his wit and humor.  His sharp mind.  But his convictions led him astray."  The angel sighed, his wings growing dimmer still.  "I miss him, and hope to see him return to us.  We are lessened, without him."



#15 giffordmac

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 04:51 PM

 To me, they should all sound like Cary Grant in The Preacher's Wife  ... or like Cary Grant in anything ... :wink:


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~~~

 

 

 

 


#16 maybo

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Posted 14 December 2014 - 10:25 AM

Hello, In my book Retaliation there are several angels.  These characters speak like beings that have been alive for thousands of years, and speak all the languages on earth.  For example; Michael speaks with some of the influence of other languages grammar rules.  So instead of him saying "Do not fear that demon running at you."  He just says 'Fear not," while swinging a mighty sword. 



#17 Terradi

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Posted 27 January 2015 - 07:00 PM

Much like Vicki, I would expect a lack of slang and contractions. I would also expect less euphemisms and non-literal speech, possibly confusion when confronted with such. I don't picture English as being a familiar or comfortable language for them, so I imagine a certain level of stiff formality and lack of familiarity that I've most often encountered with people who speak English as a second language. 

 

I can't imagine the fallen would be much different, unless they had a compelling reason to become involved with mortal life. 



#18 WornTraveler

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Posted 16 February 2015 - 11:32 PM

I've experimented extensively with this. Not *exactly* angels per-se, but for otherworldly/preternatural beings of superhuman intelligence. Maybe some of these tricks which (according to CP's and Beta's at least) have worked for me would work for you:

1) As already mentioned, they don't use contractions. One exception is "I've". They use the construct "I've a proposition," or "I've a problem", which sticks out like a sore thumb because "I've got" is the [redundant] usage in common/colloquial speech. TBH I ripped this rule off from an old MS in a medieval setting, but it totally works. My readers instinctively associated the pattern with nobility in the first MS, and it held true for super-beings as well.

2) Depending on who they're interacting with, their pattern varies. When dealing with MORTALS, they used short, declarative, but eloquent speech. I think of it as speaking to a child; you don't bust out your full vocabulary on a four year old, and angels aren't about to get wordy with mortals either. It also limits the interaction, which makes everything your demi-god/whatever says all the more powerful. Generally I don't let them waste words in this situation.

However, when speaking with PEERS, I allow them longer than average dialogue. My dialogue's already pretty realistic- on average a sentence or two max, no wordy-ass paragraph-speeches or monologues in everyday speech- so the readers, again, intrinsically understand what's going on there. They're superbeings, they've been around if not forever than close enough, and they're more patient with each other: less eager to interrupt or argue and more willing to let others speak their piece.

 

Soapbox Sidenote: It's speak your piece, and hold your peace, damn it. Sorry. Can't tell you how many people've tried to 'correct' that.

3)  If they DO argue, they shouldn't be arguing with mortals. EVER. They may try and persuade a mortal, but they're smart enough to know that nobody, in fact, has ever actually won an argument, and therefore it is a waste of their time. Again, imagine children. Parents don't tell their toddler WHY they can't have chocolate before their meals, they just cajole the 2 year old into eating their brussel sprouts with the promise of chocolate because, in fact, two year olds don't have the cognitive capacity to evaluate your logical argument.

You've never heard a toddler say "Gee, dad, that IS a valid, well-constructed argument, I think I'll do that after all."

 

So, they only argue with each other... but only to a degree. Pretty much every pantheon besides the Judeo-Christian mythos has a bunch of gods with unique, often conflicting views. If the Greek gods weren't bickering all the time, Greek mythology would literally not exist, because that's essentially what's happening in every single damn story.

Still, unless you are going for a pseudo-Greek feel, you want to avoid the teenager affect, most def. They shouldn't be petty. If they're arguing, they should state their facts, possibly offer mutual rebuttals, and- if that fails- accept the fact (again) that virtually nobody in all of history has ever actually won an argument anyways. A sort of agree to disagree type conclusion.

4) I'm going to disagree with one of the other opinions expressed and say non-literal, metaphorical speech would be common. Assuming we're all on the same page about what an angel actually is, I can't POSSIBLY imagine English-as-a-second-language being some sort of barrier for them. I mean, if *I* met an angel and he sounded like the guy who tries to fix my internet from India at 3 AM, I would be seriously disappointed.

As far as I'm concerned, a well-constructed metaphor is a keystone hallmark of a half-decent education. These *are* superbeings after all. My rule is with mortals they're more apt to use similes- because similes are the lower form, and mortals are idiots- and with each other an actual metaphor. Soft-rule, though.

PERFECT example: "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife."

Now, I'll say this: I can't remember if that's a LotR book quote from Tolkien, or something from the film's writers. Either way, it's a perfect example. This is coming from Galadriel, who- barring a few others like Gandalf and Elrond- is pretty much the ultimate personification of longevity, wisdom, and otherworldliness in Lord of the Rings. She could have used any number of lameass similes or even said it bluntly, but NO. She is a badass who's been around LITERALLY ages. Saying it any other way would not have been half as short, sweet, or illustrative.

Compare, for example: "Your chance of failure is great" or "Any misstep could be ruinous" or really any other lame way of saying it that I or anyone can think of off the top of their heads. These examples are just as short, but they don't paint the picture. I mean, YOU LITERALLY PICTURE the gravity of exactly how precarious this whole the-dark-lord-needs-his-ring-back-so-he-can-totally-screw-Middle-Earth-over situation is.

Whoa. I wrote way  more than I intended. But if I think of anything else I'll add it haha.


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#19 Cdesouza

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 08:49 AM

The novel I'm working on finishing features the angel Amazarak. With him, I had him speak somewhat more formally and use somewhat more archaic diction (the usual Fantasy-speak as far as that goes). As for emotion, since they aren't human I don't treat them as such, but kept in mind the term 'Angelic wrath' so he does have a very quick and terrifying temper. Although he's mostly personable (and is said to have passed mathematics, among other things down to humans) he does see humans as a bit stupid and child-like. And he speaks to them as such.



#20 SnowGlobe

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Posted 22 April 2015 - 08:27 AM

I am glad the first response you had was about how Castiel speaks, so literally. He isn't all flowery. It reminds me of so many people in my family with Asperger's Syndrome. Anyway, I'm guessing this guy wants flowery. Try reading Many Waters by Madeline L'Engle if you want a version of it that is accessible for most audiences. She has some ideas you might appreciate.




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