In Peter Ackroyd’s novel Chatterton, the lead character Charles is walking with his son at the beginning of the story looking for an address. When he finds the person he is looking for Charles introduces himself this way:
‘ Hi, I’m Wychwood.’
As a reader I immediately wonder if it is pronounced Witchwood or Wickwood. I not only like to read words, but I like the sound of them, and I do like to pronounce them correctly.
Ackroyd solves this problem for me and all readers by continuing with the scene this way:
“Mr. Leno sounded puzzled. ‘Which . . .?’
‘Wood. I telephoned this morning. About the books.’ ”
Since Charles did not correct Mr. Leno, we readers can surmise the name is pronounced with the sound of ‘which’ or ‘witch,’ as a minute later Charles is called ‘Mr. Witch.’ Now we have the author reinforcing the sound of the name, just in case we missed it the first time.
We learn the pronunciation of Charles’ name in a seamless manner, Ackroyd not telling us, but showing us through character interaction, a scene with humor no less.
It is not just a clever trick to pronunciation, but a way to introduce information without telling. It is so much better to learn things through characters than be told. After all a novel is not nonfiction in which we are told things. We like novels, because-lets be honest-we are eavesdropping on people. And in this humorous scene which continues Mr. Leno, Mr. Leno, and Charles is fun to watch and listen in on.
The characters should tell the story, the author should be in the background, invisible; an observer like the readers.
Two of my five e-novels on Amazon are: