Posts Tagged ‘Traci Chee’

Voicing a Story

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

We were recently treated to a double header on voice and character with two (yes two!) award winning kidlit creators, Traci Chee and Avery Fischer Udagawa. Attending both sessions, I saw how their approaches toward characterization and narrative were different by nature of their roles in the creative space—a writer shapes characters from scratch to best convey a narrative, while a translator recreates a story and the experience of reading it in another language.

A strong voice draws readers (that includes publishers too) and drives a story, and both Traci and Avery touched on how writers create voice. Using various techniques to put sentence length and vocabulary to work with non-textual cues, and sometimes with how the text falls on a page, to create tone, pace, and atmosphere, authors and translators use basically the same tools for a text-based narrative.

c06-c

Voicing and Tone: – PianoBuyer.com

But unlike authors, translators work on an existing text. Even so, Avery cautioned against being too concerned about fidelity. Taking an example from music, she mentioned how the notes of an accurately tuned piano may sound fine, yet they are different from the sound that flows from a voiced piano. My take on this would be that when a pianist (translator) plays music scripted by a composer (writer), a performance focused on hitting the right notes alone would sound sterile as compared to a nuanced expressive one.

Avery used submissions from a workshop at SCBWI Japan Translation Day a few years ago to show how two translations of the same passage can sound very different. This reminded me that a translator’s reading of the original, their interpretations and choices, affect every aspect of the translation. Indeed, no two translations from workshops over the past six editions of Translation Day have given off quite the same vibes.

Having shown how translation is a highly subjective endeavor, besides reading the story in rakugo-style and asking family members for input, Avery shared how communicating with Temple Alley Summer author Sachiko Kashiwaba sometimes influences her, for example encouraging her to trim her sentences (when in doubt) to reflect Kashiwaba’s often tightly phrased emails. While Avery mentioned that Kashiwaba doesn’t write herself into her stories, this experience suggests how personal connections between the writer and translator are simply precious and can sometimes prove instrumental in fine tuning the voice, narrative or otherwise.

We had already dipped into the depths of characterization and voice in the preceding workshop with Traci Chee, and together the two sessions made me think deeper about the tools available to (re)create characters and the story world, and about the clues lying there in the pages waiting to be discovered and conveyed. For more on Traci Chee’s illuminating workshop on voice in her book, We Are Not Free, watch for Mari Boyle’s write-up at the SCBWI Japan blog.

Participants in the Voice and Character event (photo taken after Avery’s session)