On that same subject, my father-in-law used to have filler words. We'd sit and talk and when he couldn't find the right word, he'd insert the word "outfit." It was an all-encompassing noun filler for people and places and things. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, preparing to work on one of my books and my husband had changed the password on the laptop. Before I could get up to ask him for it, my father-in-law sat down with me and started talking. I wished I could have logged on to record the conversation. His speech patterns were fraught with dialect and the occasional "outfit." I've often thought he would make a very colorful character in one of my novels, but I'll never be able to capture his conversation accurately. It was a unique pattern that is difficult to recreate, and that was probably one of the last coherent conversations we had before he passed on.
Colloquialisms and idioms can be limited to geographical areas and sometimes get lost in translation. When using them in novels, these figures of speech can cause confusion to the reader unless presented perfectly in contest or explained. Which brings me to my morning radio show (I guess I'm still fighting random free association, three weeks after busy season), where they have "Melissa, the joke explainer." She doesn't mean to do it, but in trying to understand it herself, she dissects a joke and explains it, which makes it no longer funny or relevant.
So why this topic today? In my current work, Rekindling, I have a passage that goes like this:
“I never expected you to be the type to drink yourself silly,” she said quietly.
He shook his head, his eyes locked on hers. “Not.”
My critique partner pointed it out to me as confusing and wondered if it was a colloquialism. For my part, I read it as a question asked and answered. A man of few words. Because I greatly respect my critique partner, I'm going back to make sure it makes sense and to see if I need to draw on Melissa, the joke explainer, to make it clear. There's a fine line between showing your character's personality and explaining their personality. Sometimes its necessary to do both, and sometimes you have to let them speak for themselves.
Back to editing. Lots of work yet to do.